Ariel Castro
Ariel Castro struck a plea deal to avoid the death penalty for his crimes of kidnapping, rape and other charges in the abductions of three Cleveland teens. Reuters

Ariel Castro, the Ohio man who kidnapped and raped three women and kept them imprisoned in the basement of his house for 10 years, on Friday accepted a plea deal that will spare him the death penalty but ensure that he will die behind bars.

Castro, who faced 977 charges in one of the most horrific sex crimes in years, abducted and imprisoned Michelle Knight, 32, Amanda Berry, 27, and Georgina "Gina" DeJesus, 23, separately over a two-year period starting in 2002. He repeatedly raped the women, one of whom became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter, now 6. Castro had kept the three bound for periods of time in chains or ropes and forced them to endure beatings, sexual assault and food deprivation, Cuyahoga Country prosecutors said.

The former school bus driver, 53, pled guilty to 937 charges relating to kidnapping and rape in exchange for life in prison without any possibility of parole plus 1,000 years behind bars to avoid the death penalty. Two of the charges he faced at trial, which was to have begun on Aug. 5, were filed under a fetal homicide law for allegedly starving and punching one woman until she miscarried.

"I do understand that, your honor," Castro told the judge when asked if he understood he would spend the rest of his life behind bars. And then, according to the AP, he added, "I knew I was pretty much going to get the book thrown at me."

While he was born in Puerto Rico, Castro said he could read and write English, though comprehension was a challenge, the AP said.

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

The women, who were 14, 16 and 20 years of age when they were abducted, were rescued May 6 from Castro's 1,400-square-foot house when a neighbor heard one of them crying for help. Castro was arrested that same day.