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Prosecutors to offer life without parole plus 1,000 years in Cleveland kidnappings plea deal, sources say

Ariel Castro at a pretrial hearing on Wednesday.Aaron Josefczyk / Reuters

Ohio prosecutors Thursday were close to reaching a plea deal with Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man accused of kidnapping three women and holding them captive for a decade. That deal, which he is expected to accept, is life without parole with an additional 1,000 years, NBC News has learned.

Sources involved in the investigation tell NBC News the terms of the deal are likely to become public at a 10 a.m. pre-trial conference.

The deal would allow Castro to avoid the death penalty, and would also forestall a trial, a prospect that threatened to force the city of Cleveland, not to mention the three women, to relive tales of what prosecutors say was Castro’s horror house of torture and rape.

“They’re hopeful that it’s going to come to a speedy conclusion,” Kathryn Joseph, a lawyer for one of the women, said Thursday.

Earlier this month, prosecutors heaped hundreds more criminal charges on Castro, bringing the total number of counts he faced to 977. He pleaded not guilty July 17 at a hearing in which the judge had to ask him to keep his eyes open.

The charges included kidnapping, rape, assault and attempted murder. The attempted murder charge was filed because one of the women told investigators that Castro had impregnated her and forced her to miscarry.

The women — Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight — were kidnapped between 2002 and 2004, according to investigators. They were freed in May after Berry broke partway through a door and screamed for help while Castro was out of the house.

The women broke their silence in a three-minute video July 9. In it, Knight said: “I may have been through hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face, and my head held high, and my feet firmly on the ground.”

The lead prosecutor in the case, Timothy McGinty of Cuyahoga County, never said whether he would seek the death penalty, only that he was considering it.

A trial was set to begin in August, and lawyers for the three women said that they wanted it wrapped up as soon as possible.

Castro is being held on $8 million bail.