Ariel Castro


Ariel Castro, facing kidnapping and rape charges in connection with the Cleveland case of three women held prisoner for about a decade, will plead not guilty, his lawyers said Wednesday.

The announcement, made on national television, is among the defense's opening salvos in what could become a death-penalty case.

Castro, 52, has been charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape, but prosecutors have indicated that he will face more charges from a Cuyahoga County grand jury that is dealing with the case.

Among the new charges could be aggravated murder for allegedly beating one of the women to force miscarriages, which officials said could bring the death penalty.

"The initial portrayal of him is one of a quote 'monster,' and that is not the impression that I got," one of Castro's two attorneys, Craig Weintraub, said in an interview that aired on Wednesday's "Today" show.

Added co-counsel Jaye Schlachet: "He is a human being, but what is offensive is that the women and the media want to demonize this man before they know the whole story, and I think it's unfair and not equitable."

Prosecutors allege that Castro kidnapped Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight and held them prisoner for years in his house on Seymour Avenue in Cleveland.

The women were repeatedly beaten and abused, prosecutors allege. Berry gave birth to a daughter, and Castro is the father, according to DNA test results released last week by the state.