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Life Without Parole’ Deal Struck For Cleveland Kidnapper

(We updated the top of this post at 11:55 a.m. ET.)

The man who held three young women against their will in his Cleveland home for about a decade, who fathered a child by one of them and forced another to have abortions, and who is the face of a horrific crime that shocked the nation, pleaded guilty Friday and was set to be sentenced to life in prison "plus 1,000 years."

During a lengthy hearing before Cuyahoga (Ohio) Common Pleas Judge Michael Russo, Ariel Castro pleaded guilty to nearly all of the more than 970 charges against him. His crimes included kidnapping, rape and aggravated murder (related to the abortions).

Asked repeatedly if he understood the deal that will keep him in prison for the rest of his life and avoid a trial that could have ended with the death penalty, the 53-year-old Castro answered in a soft, clear voice "yes I do, your honor."

The plea deal, under which Castro has no possibility for parole, means his victims will not have to go through the ordeal of testifying at a trial. Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight and Berry's 6-year-old daughter were rescued from Castro's home on May 6. They have since released a video in which they thank the people of Cleveland for their support and express the hope that they can now move forward with their lives.

As noon approached in the court, Judge Russo was still going over the deal agreement line by line. Attorneys say the judge needs to do that in part to ensure there's no chance Castro will someday say he did not understand what he agreed to.

Our original post -- 'Life Without Parole' Deal Struck For Cleveland Kidnapper:

Ariel Castro has agreed to a plea deal that means he would "never be eligible for a parole hearing" and would be kept in jail for the rest of his life, the prosecution and defense just said in a Cleveland court.

If a judge approves the deal that he be kept in jail for "life plus 1,000 years," Castro would avoid a trial and the possibility of a death sentence.

Castro, who is pleading guilty to holding three young women -- and the child he fathered with one of them -- captive in his Cleveland home for the past decade, told the judge Friday morning that he is "fully aware" of the deal and consents to it. He faced more than 900 charges.

The hearing began around 10:30 a.m. ET, and the judge is spending considerable time questioning Castro about whether he understands the deal. We'll be updating this post.

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