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Castro neighbor pleads not guilty in cold-case killings; bail set at $5M

A man who lived on the same block as the late Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro pleaded not guilty Monday to the murders of two women — cases that went cold until Castro was arrested and investigators took another look at the neighborhood.

A judge set bail at $5 million for the man, Elias Acevedo Sr. He said in a brief hearing in county court that he could not afford a lawyer.

The cases appear unrelated. Acevedo lived doors down from the Castro house on Seymour Avenue in Cleveland, where three women escaped earlier this year after a decade in captivity.

Acevedo, 49, was arrested in June after police discovered that he was a convicted sex offender and had failed to report his current address.

He is accused of the kidnapping, rape and murder of a 30-year-old neighbor, Pamela Pemberton, who was found strangled in 1994, and of a woman believed to be Christina Adkins, who disappeared, pregnant, as an 18-year-old in 1995.

Acevedo was also charged with the rape of two young girls. He pleaded not guilty to a 293-count indictment, including 173 counts of rape and 115 counts of kidnapping.

Acevedo was convicted of sexual battery in 2003, sentenced to three years behind bars and ordered to register with local authorities after his release, according to county prosecutors.

He became a suspect in the Adkins and Pemberton murders after Castro’s arrest, when the FBI took another look at the disappearance of other women from Seymour Avenue and the surrounding neighborhood.

Castro was found hanged in his prison cell Sept. 3, a month into a life sentence. His death was ruled suicide, but a state investigation last month suggested that he may have died from auto-erotic asphyxiation.

Three women, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, escaped the Castro home in May. He confessed to kidnapping them between 2002 and 2004, holding them for a decade, and raping and torturing them.