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Accused Cleveland kidnapper, Ariel Castro, ready to deny all charges

Defence team says key suspect in triple hostage case is ‘no monster’ and that he loved his baby girl

Not to be intimidated by the task ahead, the legal team defending Ariel Castro, the Ohio man accused of incarcerating and abusing three young women in his home for the best part of a decade, has asserted that he is no kind of “monster”, he dotes on the daughter born to one of his captives, Amanda Berry, and that he intends to plead not guilty to all the charges against him.

Earlier today, however, new details of the suffering that the women endured inside Castro’s detached house at 2207 Seymour Avenue, Cleveland, emerged.

Sources told the Reuters news agency that two of the young women, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, will need long-term therapy to overcome physical conditions, including hearing loss and joint and muscle damage, sustained as a result of their prolonged captivity at the hands of the former school-bus driver.

“One of the girls has difficulty moving her head around from being chained up,” one source indicated.

Investigators found chains attached to walls in Castro’s basement and dog leads anchored to the ceiling. “It was like they were POWs. They had bed sores from being left in positions for extended lengths of time,” a source said. Another added: “If he left for long periods he would duct tape-up the women over all parts of their faces, even their eyes, only leaving an opening so they could breathe. He would [on return] just rip it off, pulling off skin and hair.”

But defending lawyers Craig Weintraub and Jay Schlachet told Cleveland television station WKYC-TV that after meeting their client they felt he had been unfairly depicted as a monster.  “The media and the community want to demonise this man before they know the whole story,” Mr Weintraub said. “I know that [victims’] family members who have been interviewed by the media have expressed that as well.”

Mr Weintraub contended that his client “loves dearly” the daughter he fathered on Ms Berry, while she was his prisoner. The child, now six, had seemingly never seen a doctor, ialthough neighbours did see Castro, 52, walking outside with a little girl.

“If people find that to be a disconnect from what he’s alleged to have done then the people will have to deal with it,” Mr Schlachet added. “We just know how he feels about his little girl.” It is not unusual for suspects in such cases to plead not guilty, particularly with the likelihood of additional charges being filed by a grand jury possibly including aggravated murder which could, on conviction, result in the death penalty.

Any aggravated murder charges would relate to Castro impregnating the women and then starving and beating them to ensure miscarriages. But that would be hard to prove.  “Prosecutors don’t need a body... but a corpse helps,” noted Thaddeus Hoffmeister, a law professor at the University of Dayton. “Arguably, you could say that this person was never pregnant. It’s just her word.”

It seems Ms Berry has emerged from the ordeal in better physical shape than her co-captives.

“There is a reason why you have only seen a picture of Amanda (Berry),” one of the sources told Reuters, referring to the condition of Ms DeJesus and Ms Knight