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Evaluation ordered for man accused of holding women hostage for years

June 26, 2013 at 12:35 PM   |   Comments

CLEVELAND, June 26 (UPI) -- An Ohio judge ordered a competency evaluation for Ariel Castro to ensure he understands the charges against him for holding captive three women for years.

Castro is accused of kidnapping Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight and holding them women in his Cleveland home for a decade. A 329-count indictment that covers August 2002 through February 2007 alleged Castro, among other things, chained the women in his basement.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Michael Russo said during a hearing Wednesday he wanted to err on the side of caution in ordering the evaluation, which will be conducted Thursday, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported. The results are expected in a week to 10 days.

"I want to make sure in this matter, as in many other matters, that the defendant understands the nature of the charges against him," Russo said. "I have to make sure that it will stand up in the future and also that he's afforded all his rights."

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said he has "no doubt" about Castro's competency, adding, "We understand the court's caution."

Castro attended the hearing but kept his head bowed and responded with a quiet "yes" when asked by Russo if he understood the proceedings, The Plain Dealer said.

Castro's lawyers, Jaye Schlachet and Craig Weintraub, said they had not met with their client since a hearing last week. They said they will review more than 900 documents they received from the prosecutor's office, then meet with Castro to discuss them.

The charges against Castro also include 139 counts of rape, 177 counts of kidnapping, seven counts of gross sexual imposition, three counts of felonious assault and one count of possession of criminal tools.

Knight was 21 when she was reported missing in August 2002. Berry was 16 when she disappeared in April 2003. DeJesus was 14 when she failed to return home from school in April 2004.

Russo set another hearing for Wednesday.

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