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Alleged Cleveland Kidnapper Pleads Not Guilty

Facing 329 charges, including two counts of aggravated murder, 139 counts of rape and 177 counts of kidnapping, Ariel Castro entered a not-guilty plea this morning in a Cleveland courthouse.

Castro is suspected of having kidnapped three young women and keeping them in his home for about a decade. According to court records, the 52-year-old suspect chained, tortured and sexually assaulted Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight during that time.

Castro walked into the courthouse Wednesday with his head down and wearing an orange jumpsuit. He did not say a word, and his attorney waived the reading of the indictment and entered the plea on his behalf.

After the arraignment, attorney Wayne Weintraub said that while there are "certain charges" in the case that "cannot be disputed," a not-guilty plea forces the prosecution to continue to look for a solution in the case.

Weintraub said he hopes both sides "continue to work toward a resolution to avoid an unnecessary trial."

He seemed to be implying that Castro is prepared to change his plea if he can avoid the death penalty. Prosecutors have not ruled out the use of capital punishment in the case.

The aggravated murder charges stem from "the unlawful termination of another's pregnancy."

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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