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US kidnapper Castro pleads guilty in plea bargain to avoid death penalty

The US man who kidnapped three women and held them captive for a decade has pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal to avoid the death penalty. Ariel Castro has agreed to life imprisonment without possibility of parole.

Former bus driver Ariel Castro, 52, will spend the rest of his life behind bars for having kidnapped three women who he used as his sex slaves for nearly 10 years.

He told the court that he understood the severity of his sentence.

"I knew I was going to get, pretty much, the book thrown at me," Castro said.

Castro pleaded guilty on Friday to more than 900 counts, including kidnapping and rape related to the women he held in his Cleveland, Ohio, home. As a result of the plea deal, there will be no trial, which means the victims are spared the requirement to testify before the court.

Under the plea bargain, there is no possibility that he will be paroled or re-indicted at any point in the future.

Castro, who was born in Puerto Rico, said he could read and understand English but had trouble with comprehension.

"My addiction to pornography and my sexual problem has really taken a toll on my mind," he said on Friday.

Kidnapped women

Castro's victims - Amanda Berry, 27, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32 - released videos this month in which they thanked supporters and said they were putting their lives back together. Berry also has a 6-year-old daughter, who was born while she was being held.

The women were kidnapped in separate incidences between 2002 and 2004 and were freed from Castro's home on May 6 after Berry managed to escape from the home, along with a young child she bore in captivity.

During their captivity, the women were bound for periods of time in chains or ropes, and were forced to endure starvation, beatings and sexual assaults, according to court documents and a police report. 

tm/dr (dpa, AFP, Reuters)