By John Coyne
CLEVELAND — A judge on Wednesday ordered a competency evaluation for a man charged with holding three women captive in his Cleveland home for over a decade.
Judge Michael Russo said he wants to make sure 52-year-old Ariel Castro is able to understand the charges and assist attorneys in his defense. He said the examination by a court-appointed doctor likely will happen Thursday.
Castro has pleaded not guilty to 329 counts in an indictment that covers August 2002, when the first woman disappeared, to February 2007. More charges could be filed in the case cracked May 6 when one woman escaped from Castro's house, leading to the rescue of the other two.
Prosecutor Tim McGinty told the judge he would be going back to the grand jury soon to seek the additional charges. Attorney General Mike DeWine said this month that a state crime laboratory is checking new evidence to determine if there were additional victims.
McGinty said he believes Castro is mentally competent for trial and was competent when he committed the crimes.
"We have absolutely no doubt ... that he's entirely competent, knows exactly what he's doing now and did then," McGinty said in court Wednesday.
Castro's attorney, Craig Weintraub, told reporters afterward that he also believes his client is competent for trial.
The indictment alleges Castro held the women captive, sometimes chaining them to a pole in a basement, to a bedroom heater or inside a van. It says one of the women tried to escape, and he assaulted her with a vacuum cord around her neck.
McGinty hasn't said if he'll pursue a death sentence for a charge of forced miscarriage involving one woman.
Castro is being held on $8 million bail and has turned down media interview requests.
The trial has been scheduled for early August, but that could change to give attorneys more time to prepare. Another pretrial hearing was set for July 3.
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Copyright 2013 Associated Press