Ariel Castro, 53, accused of holding three women captive for a decade, appeared in a Cleveland courtroom Wednesday, where he pleaded not guilty to 977 counts of kidnapping, rape, aggravated murder and other crimes.
During the hearing, Ariel Castro was asked repeatedly by a judge to hold his head up and open his eyes.
"Mr. Castro, would you please look at me sir? Mr. Castro, I need to make sure you understand what I'm saying," Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Pamela Barker said.
“I’m trying,” responded Castro as he repeatedly lowered his head and closed his eyes throughout the court appearance.
Castro was arrested on May 6 after one of the women allegedly held in his Cleveland house escaped.
The judge continued his bond at $8 million.
Among the rape and kidnapping charges, Castro faces a charge of aggravated murder, as Knight told investigators Castro allegedly impregnated and then forced her to have a miscarriage during the time she was captive in his home.
Besides kidnapping and rape, the new 977-count indictment also charges him with seven counts of gross sexual imposition, six counts of felonious assault, three counts of child endangerment and one count of possessing criminal tools.
Castro is scheduled for trial on Aug. 5, a date that could be delayed if the defense requests more preparation time. His legal team has hinted Castro would plead guilty if the death penalty was off the table, according to AP.
Amanda Marie Berry, Georgina Lynn Dejesus and Michelle Knight are pictured in this combination photograph in undated handout photos. (Photo:FBI via Reuters )
Police rescued Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight on May 6 after Berry pushed her way through a barricaded front door with the help of a neighbor while Castro was not home. The three women disappeared between 2002 and 2004 when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old.
They spoke out for the first time in a video released on July 9.
Amanda Berry (L), Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight (R) spoke on a video earlier this month.
"I may have been through hell and back....I don't want to be consumed by hatred. ...We need to take a leap of faith and know that God is in control. We have been hurt by people, but we need to rely on God as being the judge. God has a plan for all of us," Knight said in the video.
"I want to thank everyone who has helped me and my family through this entire ordeal. Everyone who has been there to support us has been a blessing to have such an outpouring of love and kindness. I am getting stronger each day and having my privacy has helped immensely." Berry said.
Berry has a 6-year-old daughter fathered by Castro, a judge has denied a request by Castro to see his daughter.