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Prosecutors offer Ariel Castro a plea deal in Ohio kidnapping case

Ariel Castro's Backyard

These AC360 Exclusive photos depict Ariel Castro's Cleveland, OH backyard. You can see barbed wire
Ariel Castro’s Backyard These AC360 Exclusive photos depict Ariel Castro’s Cleveland, OH backyard. You can see barbed wire, chains, and a children’s bicycle. The photos were taken by a neighbor […] Credit: AC360 Exclusive

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Prosecutors have offered Ariel Castro, a Cleveland man accused of holding three women captive for close to a decade, a plea deal that removes the possibility of the death penalty, a Cuyahoga County courts source said Thursday.

The defense is considering the deal, and there is no signed agreement.

The deal would include a recommendation to keep Castro in prison for life, the source said.

“We’re on the home stretch,” said a second source close to the case.

That source said all that remains to be done to seal the deal is for Castro to plead guilty at the podium, which could happen at a hearing scheduled for Friday.

An attorney for the victims told CNN they are hoping for a plea deal because they do not want to testify at trial.

Earlier, the courts source said prosecutors and defense lawyers were close to an agreement.

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. Castro’s defense attorneys have said they want a deal that would take capital punishment off the table.

“Negotiations are close, but nothing is final,” the court source said earlier Thursday.

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

According to authorities, 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 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 Pamela Brown and Jason Hanna contributed to this report.

Ronni Berke | CNN