Ohio authorities will seek aggravated murder charges against a former Cleveland school bus driver accused of kidnapping and raping three women during a decade of captivity in his house.
The aggravated murder charges would stem from the forced miscarriages that police alleged were suffered by one of the women at the hands of Ariel Castro, 52, who is accused of holding them captive at his house in Cleveland.
County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said at a news conference on Thursday that his office intends to pursue charges of kidnapping and sexual assault as well as aggravated murder, which could carry the death penalty.
"The law of Ohio calls for the death penalty for those most depraved criminals who commit aggravated murder during the course of a kidnapping," he said.
The city of Cleveland has already filed kidnapping and rape charges against Castro, who appeared briefly in a municipal court on Thursday.
A judge set bond for Castro at $8 million - $2 million each for the three young women and a child born in captivity.
Daughter 'so sorry'
|Ariel Castro is charged with four kidnap counts [AFP]
After Castro appeared in court, his daughter, Arlene, spoke of her embarrassment and devastation over the case and apologised to the three women who accused him of the horrific crimes.
One of the women, Gina DeJesus, now 23, was her friend and the pair were walking home together just before Gina disappeared in 2004.
With tears streaming down her face, Arlene had a message for DeJesus and fellow kidnap victims Amanda Berry, now 27, and Michelle Knight, 32, on ABC's Good Morning America.
“I’m absolutely so, so sorry," she said.
"I really want to see you Gina and I want you to meet my kids. I’m so sorry for everything."
Brothers' minor charges
Castro's two brothers, Pedro and Onil, were originally arrested over the abductions, but were not charged over the case.
However, they also appeared in court before Judge Lauren Moore on Thursday on charges of drinking in public. Onil Castro was also charged with drug abuse.
Castro was formally charged on Wednesday with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape. Castro was being kept on a suicide watch and his lawyer said she expected him to be kept in isolation in jail.
The charges came as police revealed that the women, who were rescued on Monday after one of them, Amanda Berry, fled with the help of a neighbour, had not seen any previous chances to escape in nearly 10 years of captivity.
"The only opportunity, after interviewing the young ladies, to escape was the other day when Amanda escaped," Cleveland Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba said.
"They don't believe that they've been outside that home for the last 10 years respectively," he said.
"They were not in one room, but they did know each other and they did know each other was there."
Police said earlier that they found ropes and chains in the house that had been used to hold them prisoner. No human remains were found, they said.
Officials said the three women were at times bound in chains or rope and endured starvation, beatings, sexual assaults and in the case of one of them, several miscarriages deliberately induced by their captor by starving her and beating her in the abdomen.
A paternity test will be conducted to determine the father of Berry's six-year-old daughter, who was conceived and born during her mother's captivity, Tomba said.
Berry and DeJesus went to their families' homes on Wednesday, while Knight was in a Cleveland hospital where a spokeswoman said she was in good condition.
The rape charges against Castro relate to Berry, DeJesus and Knight, the prosecutor said.