TODAY   |  August 01, 2013

Cleveland captives’ diary details revealed

Prosecutors in the Ariel Castro case filed a document late Wednesday describing Castro’s admitted crimes, as new details emerge from his three victims’ diaries about their time in captivity. NBC’s Kate Snow reports and TODAY legal analyst Lisa Bloom discusses the case.

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>> castro is going to walk into this courtroom out in cleveland . once he's sentenced, he'll be sent to prison and will never leave again.

>> he actually pled guilty. he agreed to a sentence of life in prison plus 1,000 years behind bars , all to avoid the death penalty . this morning there are disturbing new details about the women 's time in captivity.

>> let us get right to nbc's kate snow . she's in cleveland . kate, good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, matt. as you say, ariel castro has already pled guilty to 937 out of 977 counts against him. we are learning disturbing new details this morning about exactly what went on inside that house and the fact that the three women kept daily diaries, which helped prosecutors put ariel castro behind bars . his fate is already sealed. when ariel castro accepted a plea deal last week, he accepted life without parole plus 1,000 years.

>> you'll never leave prison alive. is that clear?

>> yes, it is.

>> reporter: we've now learned why. in a preview of what we'll hear in court today, prosecutors filed a document late wednesday describing what castro has already admitted to, that the kidnappings began in 2002 with michelle knight. he promised her a puppy for her young son if she came inside his house. he then chained and gagged her. at the time, castro had a girlfriend, but he broke up with her, prosecutors say, because he didn't want her to get in the way of his plans to kidnap more women . castro used chains, padlocks, and zip ties to restrain the women . they were given just one meal a day and infrequent showers. they had only plastic toilets emptied infrequently, the document says.

>> the captor is now the captive.

>> reporter: prosecutor tim mcginty called castro the worst kind of violent sexual predator , a fraud and coward. castro told the women he had other captives and some made it home, some did not. his own son told savannah this week he's happy his father will never be able to hurt anyone ever again.

>> i think that, if he really can't control his impulses and he really doesn't have any value for human life the way this case has shown, then behind bars is where he belongs for the rest of his life.

>> give it up for amanda berry!

>> reporter: slowly, the women and their families are coming out, amanda berry on stage at a nelly concert, gina dejesus' parents at a charity walk .

>> the value of not going to trial is these beautiful women don't have to go in front of this heinous monster and relive the horror they endured for the last decade.

>> reporter: when captive, the women marked time in their diaries. their own written words, prosecutors say, led to such a strong case against castro . amanda berry would begin most entries dear mom, and after learning her mother passed away , she wrote to her in heaven. late wednesday cleveland police released a thank you note michelle knight sent them. "just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, she became a butterfly. thanks. god bless you." of the three young women , we've learned that michelle knight may be the only one to appear here this morning. she may speak. the other two women not expected to appear, but their families will read statements on their behalf. castro 's home meantime will be demolished, made into some kind of local park for the community, and the 6-year-old daughter that castro fathered with amanda berry, the prosecutor has said there is absolutely zero hope that castro will see that daughter again or have any kind of visitation rights . matt?

>> kate snow in cleveland . kate, thank you very much. lisa bloom is a "today" legal analyst. lisa, good morning to you.

>> good morning.

>> ariel castro will get a chance to stand up in that courtroom today. we're hearing from his attorneys he hasn't prepared anything formally. so he may just start speaking off the top of his head. what limitations does the court place on what he can or cannot say.

>> he's only supposed to talk about issues that are relevant to his sentencing. i would expect to hear about a difficult childhood, his sexual addiction , because we've heard him talk about that in the past. he can't simply go on and on. he certainly can't attack the victims. he has the right to speak, but i can tell you, matt, there is absolutely not a single thing that he can say that's going to affect this judge's decision. he is going away for the rest of his life.

>> and on the other side of the coin, at least one of the victims may have the chance to speak or at least be present in the courtroom as well. after all the talk by so many people that they didn't want this case to go to trial because they didn't want to place these young ladies through that situation where they'd have to see him every day again, are you surprised that one or more might show up today?

>> i'm not surprised. these women endured a decade of rape, beatings, confinement, torture. you know, speaking in court isn't much compared to that, and she has the right to speak. i'm really interested in what she has to say. my experience representing victims, it can be very empowering for them to go to court, to stare down the perpetrator eye to eye , to say what they have to say in a very safe environment.

>> this plea deal was probably a long time in the making. there had been some talk about taking this case to trial, as i mentioned, and perhaps that prosecutors would seek the death penalty . do you think they moved away from that simply to spare these victims, or was there a legitimate legal reason that they didn't feel they could reach for the death penalty ?

>> well, it's very difficult to get the death penalty in a fetal homicide case, and that would have been the charge that led to capital punishment here. but there is nothing ordinary about this case, and with the level of anger and outrage against ariel castro , i think they could have gotten it. i don't think it was just a bargaining chip.

>> lisa bloom on the story for us. lisa, thanks very