Source: Ariel Castro close to plea deal

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(CNN) — Prosecutors and defense lawyers are close to a plea deal in the case of Ariel Castro, a Cleveland man accused of holding three women captive for about a decade in his home, a Cuyahoga County courts source said Thursday.

Castro, charged with 977 counts — including aggravated murder, on suspicion of ending the pregnancy of one of his alleged captives — is set to go to trial August 5 if a deal is not reached.

The murder charges could trigger the death penalty, but Castro’s defense attorneys have said they want a deal that would take the take capital punishment off the table.

“Negotiations are close, but nothing is final,” the court source said Thursday, adding that removing the death penalty has been discussed.

“It’s safe to say (Castro) wouldn’t take a deal with the death penalty,” the source said.

Authorities said Castro abducted Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Georgina “Gina” DeJesus separately in a two-year period starting in 2002.

The women, as well as Berry’s 6-year-old daughter, who authorities say was fathered by Castro, were freed in May after one of the women shouted for help while Castro was away from his 1,400-square-foot home.

Castro, a former school bus driver, pleaded not guilty to the charges earlier this month. He is being held with bail set at $8 million.

Besides two aggravated murder charges, Castro faces 512 counts of kidnapping, 446 counts of rape, seven counts of gross sexual imposition, six counts of felonious assault, three counts of child endangerment and one count of possessing criminal tools.

CNN’s Jason Hanna contributed to this report.

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