Ariel Castro, the 52-year-old former school bus driver accused of holding three Cleveland women captive for more than a decade, faces nearly 1,000 rape, kidnapping and sexual abuse charges as he goes on trial next month.
A Cuyahoga County grand jury indicted Castro on 977 charges Friday, prosecutor Timothy McGinty said.
In addition to the 512 counts of kidnapping, 446 counts of rape and seven counts of sexual abuse, Castro is also charged with two counts of aggravated murder for allegedly beating one of the women so severely that she lost a pregnancy. He also faces six counts of assault, three counts of child endangerment and one count of possessing criminal tools.
The two aggravated murder charges stem from a single instance during the fourth pregnancy of Michelle Knight, who was the first woman to disappear. One aggravated murder charge alleges premeditation. The second murder charge alleges that the murder took place during a kidnapping.
The state could seek the death penalty for the two counts of aggravated murder. The prosecutor's Capital Review Committee is scheduled to evaluate the case later this month.
The indictment covers the entire period of captivity, from the Aug. 22, 2002, disappearance of Knight to May 6, when Amanda Berry, missing since April 21, 2003, and her child escaped Castro's Cleveland house and led police to Knight and Gina DeJesus, missing since April 2, 2004.
The charges lodged Friday replace an earlier indictment, which charged Castro in June with 329 counts and covered the first four years of the women's captivity.
"Today's indictment moves us closer to resolution of this gruesome case,'' McGinty said in a statement. "Our investigation continues, as does our preparation for trial."
Castro, who had pleaded not guilty to the earlier charges, will be arraigned on the new charges July 17. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Aug. 5.