(Cleveland, OH)  --  Accused Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro is accepting a plea deal that will allow him to avoid the death penalty in exchange for life in prison.  In a court hearing today, Castro informed the judge in his case that he has reviewed the plea deal with the help of his lawyers, and that it's his signature on the document.  He's accused of holding three women captive in his northeast Ohio home for around a decade.  He was charged with nearly one-thousand criminal counts, including murder for the forced abortion of one captives' unborn child.  The deal means Castro won't stand trial, sparing his victims from having to relive their years of captivity on the witness stand.  

The victims were able to escape from captivity in May with the help of one of Castro's neighbors.  Castro's trial would have started with jury selection next week.  

Castro looked much more lucid today than he did in previous court appearances.  In earlier hearings, he kept his head to the ground and appeared to have trouble even opening his eyes.  Today, he appeared wide awake and relaxed.