Accused Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro pleads guilty, avoids the death penalty

They suffered for a decade, and he’ll pay for it for the rest of his life.

Former school bus driver Ariel Castro pleaded guilty on Friday to kidnapping and raping three Cleveland women, in a missing persons case that galvanized a community and shocked North America.

Castro agreed to a deal that will keep him in prison for the rest of his life but would avoid the death penalty. In exchange, he will be sentenced to 1,000 years in prison with no chance of parole.

"I knew I was pretty much going to get the book thrown at me," Castro told an Ohio judge, according to Reuters.

Castro had been held in custody since early May, when three women who had disappeared from their Cleveland homes about 10 years ago were rescued from his home alongside a six-year-old girl.

[ More Brew: Message from Cleveland kidnapping victims sign of recovery ]

Ariel Castro standing before a judge during his arraignment in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

The three women – Gina DeJesus, 23, Michelle Knight, 32, and Amanda Berry, 27 – had disappeared in separate instances between 2002 and 2004 and were held captive in the shanty home, unknown to even Castro's closest neighbours.

DNA evidence confirmed the girl, Berry's daughter, was fathered by Castro while Berry was his captor.

The women were finally freed on May 6 when Berry managed to escape the home with the help of a neighbour and called police. Emergency crews rushed to the scene and found the other captors, terrified and suffering.

On Friday, Cuyahoga County Judge Michael Russo repeatedly asked Castro to confirm that he understood the plea bargain he was agreeing to. Russo said it was important Castro knew he would not be released from prison before he died.

"I don't think there is any reason," Castro said at one point.

Castro had been charged with 977 counts ranging from kidnapping and rape to murder, for allegedly forcing one of his captives to miscarry.

While the agreement does ensure Castro will not be executed for his crimes, it also avoids a likely extensive trial, at which his victims would have been forced to testify. Former U.S. prosecutor Brian Silver said the plea deal was likely the right move for everyone involved.

"You have to think of your victims as a prosecutor. And to put these women through trial, and sit there and have to describe all 900 counts that are being indicted, it would just put them through the ringer once again," Silver told Fox News.

"If this guy is going to get locked up for the rest of his life, and he'll never see the light of day again, and get what he deserves, then I think that is a good resolution for everybody."

Earlier this month, the three victims released a video statement thanking the public for their support and expressing their conviction to return to regular lives.

[ More Brew: Vancouver bar at the heart of Russian vodka boycott to protest anti-gay laws ]

After 10 years of being held captive in a home, raped and beaten at the whim of their captor, however, their journey to normalcy will be a long one. The three women lost years of their lives and will spend the rest of their time on earth trying to move on from what happened to them.

Castro will spend the next 1,000 years in a prison with no chance of parole. One only hopes he lives long enough to suffer through every one of those years.

Want to know what news is brewing in Canada?
Follow @MRCoutts on Twitter.