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Mark Duncan | Associated Press
Ariel Castro, center, keeps his head bowed during a pretrial hearing in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court in Cleveland on Wednesday.

Cleveland captives suspect competent for trial

CLEVELAND — A man accused of holding three women captive in his Cleveland home for about a decade and raping them is competent to stand trial, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Cuyahoga County Judge Michael Russo said the results of an examination of Ariel Castro last week showed that he is mentally able to understand the charges and assist attorneys in his defense.

Also Wednesday, prosecutor Tim McGinty said a meeting is planned July 11 to discuss the possibility of seeking the death penalty for the 52-year-old Castro, who faces aggravated murder charges stemming from allegations that he caused the deliberate termination of one of the women's pregnancies.

McGinty invited Castro's attorney, Craig Weintraub, to submit evidence to him before the meeting to support an argument against the death penalty in the upcoming discussions.

Castro's attorneys have previously hinted that he might plead guilty if talk of capital punishment was taken off the table.

McGinty said prosecutors would be going back to the county grand jury to seek more charges against Castro, but he didn't know when that would happen.

At the end of the hearing, Castro, bearded with his chin tucked to his chest for most of time, asked for permission to visit with the 6-year-old girl he fathered with one of the women he is accused of kidnapping and raping. The judge denied the request.

"I just think that would be inappropriate," Russo said.

Castro has pleaded not guilty to a 329-count indictment alleging he kidnapped three women off the streets between 2002 and 2004 when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old and held them for a decade in his two-story home in a rough Cleveland neighborhood.

He fathered a 6-year-old daughter child with one woman and is accused of starving and punching a second to cause her to miscarry. He was arrested May 6, shortly after one of the women broke through a door at the home and yelled to neighbors for help.

The trial is scheduled for Aug. 5, but Russo said it could be delayed. Another hearing is set for July 24

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