CLEVELAND — A man charged with holding three women captive in his Cleveland home for over a decade will undergo an evaluation to determine if he is mentally competent to stand trial, a judge ordered Wednesday.
Although both the defense and prosecution agree Ariel Castro is competent, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Michael Russo said he wants to make sure the 52-year-old man is able to understand the charges and assist attorneys in his defense.
The examination by a court-appointed doctor will probably take place Thursday, the judge said.
Castro has pleaded not guilty to 329 counts in an indictment that covers August 2002, when the first woman disappeared, to February 2007. More charges could be filed in the case cracked May 6 when one woman escaped from Castro's house, leading to the rescue of the other two.
Prosecutor Tim McGinty told the judge he would be going back to the grand jury soon to seek the additional charges. Ohio Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine said this month that a state crime laboratory is checking new evidence to determine if there were additional victims.
McGinty said he believes Castro understood what he was doing when the crimes were committed and that he is competent now.
“We have absolutely no doubt … that he's entirely competent, knows exactly what he's doing now and did then,” McGinty said in court Wednesday.
Castro's attorney, Craig Weintraub, told reporters afterward that he believes his client is competent for trial.
A brief statement issued Wednesday by attorneys on behalf of the women suggested that they want a quick resolution of the case.
“The longer this process lasts, the more painful it is for them. And the more sordid details of this horror that get disclosed in this process, the more painful it is for them,” said Kathy Joseph, attorney for Michelle Knight.
James Wooley, representing Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, said the women have faith in the legal process but added, “The simple, honest truth is they would like it to be over. They want this whole thing behind them. Any date set by which this may end is like light at the end of a tunnel.”
The indictment alleges that Castro held the women captive, sometimes chaining them to a pole in a basement, to a bedroom heater or inside a van. One of the women had a child by Castro. The indictment says that when one of the women tried to escape, he assaulted her with a vacuum cord around her neck.
McGinty hasn't said if he'll pursue a death sentence for a charge of forced miscarriage involving one woman.
Castro is being held in lieu of $8-million bail and has turned down media interview requests.
The trial has been scheduled for early August, but that could change to give attorneys more time to prepare. Another pretrial hearing was set for July 3.
Weintraub said he received 900 documents from prosecutors Tuesday night but he doesn't think “there's any information in there that we don't already know.”