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Ohio kidnap victims rescued after years in captivity

Ohio kidnap victims rescued after years in captivity


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On May 6, 2013, three women are rescued from a Cleveland, Ohio, house where they had been imprisoned for many years by their abductor, 52-year-old Ariel Castro, an unemployed bus driver. The women—Michelle Knight, Amada Berry and Gina DeJesus—went missing separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 21, 16 and 14 years old, respectively. Also rescued from the house was a 6-year-old girl born to Berry while she was being held captive and fathered by Castro.

Castro abducted each of the women, who had been acquaintances of his children, by giving them a ride in his car then luring them into his home in a working-class Cleveland neighborhood, where they were tortured and kept locked up. During their years in captivity, the women were beaten, sexually assaulted, restrained by chains and starved. Knight told authorities she became pregnant by Castro five times and each time he punched and kicked her to force a miscarriage. Additionally, Castro ordered Knight to help deliver Berry’s baby, threatening to kill Knight if anything went wrong. In all the years they were held hostage, the women were allowed into the backyard of Castro’s dilapidated, two-story house just a few times, and only when disguised in wigs and sunglasses.

Meanwhile, Castro led a double life: driving a school bus, chatting with neighbors, playing bass in local bands and posting to his Facebook page. That came to an end on the evening of May 6, 2013, when Berry stood at the front door of Castro’s house after he’d gone out, and screamed for help. In response, neighbors kicked in the door and Berry escaped with her daughter then called 911. When police arrived at the house, they rescued Knight and DeJesus. Castro was arrested in the area that same night.

On July 26, 2013, in a deal that allowed Castro to avoid a possible death sentence, he pleaded guilty to more than 900 charges against him, including kidnapping, rape and aggravated murder (for causing Knight to miscarry). On August 1, a judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 1,000 years. A month later, on September 3, Castro was found dead in his prison cell after hanging himself with a sheet.


Cleveland kidnapping survivors Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus on journey from captivity to helping others

Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus spoke openly about their decade in captivity.

Michelle Knight’s life before she was abducted for 11 years in Cleveland: Part 1

On May 6, 2013, the city of Cleveland witnessed a miracle when Amanda Berry called 911 from a neighbor’s phone.

“I’ve been kidnapped and been missing for 10 years. I’m here. I’m free now,” Berry, now 33, told the 911 operator.

Berry, along with Gina DeJesus, now 29, and Michelle Knight, now 38, had been held captive for more than 9 years by Ariel Castro. Castro kidnapped each of the women between 2002 and 2004.

For years, the women endured unimaginable abuse, as they were chained, starved and tortured by Castro.

The three women never gave up hope, and since their escape they have worked to help and heal others.

Berry and DeJesus shared new details of their years of horror and how they’ve triumphed over their trauma in new interviews with “20/20.”

Watch the full story on "20/20" Friday, Jan. 3, at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

April 21, 2003: Amanda Berry is abducted

Just a day before her 17th birthday, Amanda Berry got up and got ready for work.

“I almost called off of work that day because the next day was my birthday. You know, what if? What if I would’ve called off that day?” Berry said.

While walking home from work, a vehicle started to follow Berry down the street, and the man inside asked her if she needed a ride home.

The man, Ariel Castro, was an elementary school bus driver and the father of Berry’s friend and classmate from middle school.

“He’s like, ‘Well she’s at my house. Would you like to go see her?’" Castro said of his daughter, who lived in another neighborhood with her mother, Castro's ex-wife.

"I said, ‘Yeah, sure,’” Berry said.

After they entered the white, two-story house on Seymour Avenue, Castro told Berry that his daughter might be taking a bath, she said.

“So he said, ‘We’ll just wait,’” Berry said. “So he started showing me around the house. And I never got back out.”

Castro took Berry upstairs and showed her something strange: a mystery woman sleeping in a bedroom in front of a television set. She later learned that the woman was Michelle Knight, who was abducted by Castro at 21 and had been held by him for almost a year. Berry’s memories of what happened next are still raw.

“He took me to the next bedroom, and it was just really dark in there, and he didn’t turn on the lights, and there was a little, like, a little room off of the bigger bedroom, kind of a big closet,” Berry said. “And he took me in there, and he told me to pull down my pants. And from there I knew, like, this was not going to be good.”

She became Castro’s second prisoner.

“He took me to the basement and he taped my wrists and he taped my ankles and he put on a belt around my ankles over the tape,” Berry said. “He put a helmet over my head, and he said, ‘Just be quiet and don’t make any noise. And I’ll take you home.’”

Berry said Castro chained her to a pole, shut off the lights and left her in the dark with a television on.

“I just started screaming and crying… ‘Somebody please help me,’ you know. And nobody, nobody came,” she said. “I was so scared that I was going to die. I didn’t think that I was going to ever make it home.”

April 24, 2003: Day 4 of Amanda Berry’s Captivity

As news of her abduction made headlines, Berry watched her mother and sister on the TV in the basement.

“That kept me going. And I said, ‘You know what, I’m going to make it home to you. As long as you fight, I’m going to fight,’” Berry said.

On the fourth day of her abduction, April 24, 2003, Berry said Castro moved her to an upstairs bedroom and chained her to a radiator.

“It was really hard, you know, because in the beginning, the chain was around my stomach,” Berry said. “Going to sleep at night, you know, if you wanted to toss on to your back, you couldn’t do that, you would have to take the whole chain and move it to the front of your stomach so that you're not laying on the big lock on your back.”

One week after Amanda Berry’s abduction, Castro calls her family

Berry was missing for a week when her family received a late-night call from Castro, who taunted them using Berry’s cell phone.

“He called and said, ‘I have Mandy,’ which, nobody called her Mandy but [people] who knew her,” said Beth Serrano, Berry’s sister. “'She wants to be with me.'”

In 2003, the FBI was just starting to develop technology that could track a cell phone’s location if it was turned on. With that information, they were able to narrow down that her phone had been used within a thirty to forty block area.

“We spent about a week, around the clock, in that area, hoping that this phone would be used again,” FBI agent Tim Kolonik said. But Castro never used Berry’s phone again.

“That was the last we heard of anything,” Serrano said.

Meanwhile, Berry’s dark and filthy room at Castro’s house was about the size of a closet.

“The mattress was old and nasty, and it was just disgusting. And we had the bucket to use the bathroom, and that smelled horrible,” Berry said.

Once a day, Berry said, Castro gave her a bag of chips or crackers or other food to eat. But everything, including her weekly shower, came at a price.


Cleveland Kidnapping Survivors: Where Are They Now?

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on May 6, 2018, the five-year anniversary of the rescue of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight from a Cleveland home where they𠆝 been held captive for more than a decade.

Inside the dilapidated home, the trio was chained, tortured and raped by Ariel Castro, who later died by suicide after being sentenced for his crimes. Monday marks the six-year anniversary of the victims’ escape.

It has been five years since Amanda Berry miraculously escaped from a boarded-up Cleveland home and called 911.

“Help me. I’m Amanda Berry,” she told the dispatcher. “I’ve been kidnapped and missing for 10 years. I am here. I am free now.”

Within minutes, Cleveland Police discovered Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, who had been chained, tortured and abused along with Berry for a decade. Their captor, Ariel Castro, was convicted for kidnapping and raping the three women and sentenced to life in prison. (He died by suicide a month after he was sentenced.)

Since then, the three women have gone their separate ways and continue to heal from the decade-long trauma.

On Tuesday, Knight — 37 years-old and now going by the name Lillian Rose Lee — released her second memoir, Life After Darkness. Her first memoir, Finding Me, was a New York Times bestseller. In her new book, she opens up about her trauma, depression and relationships.

“The whole world had heard the story of how I had been damaged by a filthy older man,” she wrote in her book, excerpted exclusively in this week’s issue of PEOPLE. “Who would ever want me after that?”

• Watch the full episode of People Crime: Michelle Knight – Finding Love After Captivity streaming now on PeopleTV.com, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.

But through mutual friends on Facebook, she eventually found love and married Miguel Rodriguez, a medical courier, on May 6, 2016 — the third anniversary of Knight’s freedom from Castro’s house.

For now, she travels around the world as a public speaker and recently launched her foundation Lily’s Ray of Hope, which supports women and girls who are victims of domestic violence, human trafficking and child abuse. She partnered with specialty coffee maker 3-19 Co. to showcase her artwork and raise money for her foundation, which will eventually provide resources so women can restart their lives.

Meanwhile, Berry, now 32, has turned her attention toward spotlighting missing people in Northeast Ohio. When she was inside captor Ariel Castro‘s home, he would let her see news segments of people searching for her.

Berry is hosting a 30-second daily news segment on Cleveland’s Fox 8 because she wants missing people to know the public is still looking for them.

“I hope we get [the faces of] missing people out there and get people looking at them a second time, a third time, and looking at their name,” Berry told PEOPLE last year. “It’s kind of the small things that makes a big difference.”

• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Clickhere to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.

She partnered with DeJesus and they shared their story in the New York Times bestselling memoir Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland, written with Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan.

RELATED VIDEO: Cleveland Kidnapping Survivor Overcame Addition and Trauma After Rescue – With Help From a Horse

She is also raising a daughter, which she delivered while inside Castro’s home. “I’m so proud of how much she’s grown as a person. She’s very caring. And a lot of kids her age are not like that and I find that she is,” Berry told local TV station Fox8.

DeJesus, now 28-years-old and the youngest of the group, has been quietly enjoying life with her tight-knit family in the suburbs of Cleveland, a source told PEOPLE.

She recently joined forces with the Northeast Ohio Amber Alert Committee. Newburgh Heights Police Chief John Majoy, who works with the group, told Fox8 that DeJesus plans to help survivors and their family members.

“She’s such an asset to the team,” Majoy told the local station. 𠇊nywhere in our eight-county area, we will send a victims’ advocate specialist along with Gina to meet with the family and provide them support services.”

DeJesus told the station that she wants to help people in her community. She said, “Just to give back and to help like they helped me when I came home.”


2 of 11

COLLEEN STAN, 'THE GIRL IN A BOX'

In 1977, 20-year-old Stan was traveling from her home in Eugene, Oregon, to northern California to attend a birthday party. Her mode of transport was hitchhiking, and she turned down two rides before getting in the car with 23-year-old Cameron Hooker, his wife, Janice, and their baby.

Within hours, Hooker put a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her. He bound her, gagged her and placed a homemade wooden box over her head.

Stan was locked in a coffin-like box for 23 hours a day underneath the couple's bed for seven years. She was removed from the box only to be repeatedly raped and tortured.

Stan was told that a group called "the Company" would kill her if she escaped, and she was made to sign a slave contract. It was fear of the "the Company" that kept her from seeking help, even when Hooker allowed her to visit her family at one point during her captivity.

In 1983, Stan was allowed to leave the house, getting a job as a motel maid, eventually calling Hooker to tell him she was leaving and going home.

He was sentenced to 104 years in prison, where he remains today. Stan recently spoke out about her time in captivity, saying she has lived a happy life since. "Your life is just kinda in limbo when you're in captivity, and once you get that freedom back and you have that choice again, it's just like the gates open," she said. "And you just run for it."


Life After 11 Years of Captivity, Rape and Torture: Michelle Knight's Story

A young woman walked into a Family Dollar store in Cleveland, exhausted, sweaty and desperate. Michelle Knight was 21 years old, and she'd spent the past few hours searching for the location of a crucial meeting. The appointment, with social services, was to discuss how she might regain custody of her 2-year-old son, who'd been placed in foster care a few months earlier after her mother's boyfriend got drunk and, Knight says, became abusive and broke the boy's leg.

It was August 2002&mdashyears before smartphones and Google Maps&mdashand after nearly four hours of wrong turns, Knight spotted the Family Dollar store. She bought a soda and started asking people for directions. A woman in the soda aisle couldn't help. The cashier couldn't either. Knight was about to walk out when she heard a male voice: "I know exactly where that is." She looked up and saw a man with thick, messy hair and a potbelly, dressed in black jeans and a stained flannel shirt.

"Oh my gosh, you're Emily's dad!" Knight said. Standing before her was Ariel Castro, the father of a girl she knew from the neighborhood. While Knight had never met him, she'd seen photos of him on Emily's cell and overheard her talking to him on the phone.

Castro smiled. "If you give me a second here, maybe I can show you how to get there," he said softly. "Want me to give you a ride?"

She gratefully followed him out to his car.

Castro's orange Chevy was littered with Big Mac wrappers and Chinese food containers. "Wow, you must live in this place," Knight said, as recounted in her memoir, Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed. He laughed. Instead of driving straight to the social services meeting, he told her he had to make a quick stop at his house first. They started talking about Knight's son, Joey, and then Castro mentioned that his dog had just had puppies. By the time he pulled up to his house on Seymour Avenue, just a few blocks from where Knight lived, he'd convinced her to take one home for Joey.

A tall chain-link fence surrounded the dilapidated, multi-story home, and trash was strewn across the lawn. Castro drove down the driveway, got out of the car and secured a large padlock on the gate. That puzzled Knight. Weren't they only going to be there for a few minutes? Castro said something about not wanting his truck to get stolen, then helped her out of the car. She saw an old man standing in the yard next door, so she waved. He waved back. Then she followed Castro inside.

The thick air smelled like stale beer, urine and rotten black beans, and many of the windows were boarded up. Knight couldn't believe Emily spent time here. "She's right downstairs, putting some laundry in the machine," Castro said. "Why don't you come with me upstairs so you can go ahead and pick out a puppy?" Knight hesitated. She didn't hear any puppies. She didn't hear Emily either. But Castro had an answer for everything: The puppies were sleeping, and Emily would be up any moment. He pointed to the staircase, and Knight started climbing.

On the second-floor landing, he directed her to a small bedroom with pink walls. "They're under there," he said, pointing to the dresser. Knight took another step forward and&mdashBAM!&mdashCastro slammed the door shut behind them. He then slapped one hand over her mouth and nose and the other against her head, and pushed her to the ground. Knight started shaking. She couldn't scream. All she could do was stare at the two metal poles on either side of the room, and the taut wire running between them. Castro tied an orange extension cord around her ankles and wrists, yanked her limbs together behind her back, then wrapped the cord around her neck. "You're only gonna be here for a little while. I'm not gonna keep you that long," she remembers him saying as he unzipped his pants and masturbated until he ejaculated on her.

Castro then sat on a stool, breathing heavily. "Now I need you to be still so I can put you up on these poles," he said, shoving Knight onto her stomach. He tied a second extension cord to the one around her limbs and neck, then attached it to the wire hanging between the poles. Suddenly, Knight felt herself being roughly hoisted into the air. Her entire body dangled, face down, in a plank position about a foot above the floor, neck cocked, back arched slightly, hands and feet bound behind her. Castro stuffed a smelly sock in Knight's mouth, covered it with duct tape, blasted the radio and walked out. She heard the door slam shut and his feet pounding down the stairs. Then, nothing.

"The first thing that came to my head was, Holy shit, I'm gonna die here," Knight says. "I'm not gonna be able to hold my son in my hands. I'm not gonna be able to say I love him. I'm gonna miss every moment of his life."

Knight choked back those same fears, day after day, for the next 11 years.

Sadism Sells

Knight closes her eyes for a moment and tilts her head up toward the sun. When she opens them, she says, "Watching the clouds go by is so beautiful!" I follow her gaze and notice that the pale-blue sky is studded with delicate white wisps. It dawns on me that someone who was held captive for over a decade&mdashraped, beaten, starved, chained and rarely let outside&mdashwould of course want to stop and watch the clouds float by.

We're sitting outside a restaurant in downtown Cleveland. Knight, who's 34 now, wears a magenta and black-leopard-print blouse, dark jeans and pink lipstick. She gently pats her short blond hair and points to a meaty green animal tattooed around her right wrist. "This is a protection dragon," she says. She raises her left sleeve and drops her shoulder, revealing five large roses cascading down her arm, each one covered in drops of blood. "Every rose is for every abortion that I had in the house."

It's mid-June, just 10 days after the two-year anniversary of her rescue from Castro's house. Since then, Knight legally changed her name to Lillian Rose Lee and has become an advocate for victims of abuse and violence. She's also covered her body with tattoos. On her right shoulder, there is a brown teddy bear decorated with red hearts, a design she drew during captivity. On her chest, a baby and the phrase "Too beautiful for this Earth." On her right calf, there's a large face, part skeleton and part flesh. "This tattoo represents my life from the past and my life in the future. It says, 'My heart is not chained to my situation.'" Knight often talks in quotes like this, especially when describing her life today&mdashlife after "the dude," as she calls Castro, and the nearly 4,000 days she spent trapped in his grotesque prison of abuse.

From concentration camps to war experiences, history proves that people can survive unspeakable traumas. Yet there is no neat and tidy explanation as to how they do it. "Core elements are keeping hope up in some way: thinking about the future, and having something to occupy your mind so you're not dwelling on it all the time," says David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. Some captives learn to dissociate or minimize what they're going through. "Some of the defense mechanisms that are occasioned by trauma may help victims get through really horrific experiences," says Dorchen Leidholdt, director of the Center for Battered Women's Legal Services at Sanctuary for Families in New York. "But when they get out it can make it harder for them to heal and rebuild their lives."

Culturally, we are fascinated by these modern-day Brothers Grimm fairy tales&mdashthe details of capture, the sadistic acts of violence, the complete and utter subjugation. But we are largely uninterested in their aftermath. Recovery, which presents a deluge of challenges (post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, substance abuse, chronic health conditions, abusive relationships and subsequent victimization), is far less uplifting than rescue, justice and restoring order to the world. "We want to believe that stories of kidnapping and captivity end, like the Disney version of Rapunzel, happily ever after," says Bruce Shapiro, executive director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. "But life after captivity can be harrowing too. We don't really want to know about that, because in a way, that's more frightening."

There is a cohort of women who know exactly how terrifying recovery can be. They are members of a society they never wanted to join, because membership meant enduring harrowing traumas and surviving to tell their stories. The names evoke some of the most hideous captivity tales on record. There's Jaycee Dugard, who, in 1991, was abducted while walking to a bus stop in South Lake Tahoe, California. Convicted sex offender Phillip Garrido and his wife, Nancy, held 11-year-old Dugard for 18 years in a makeshift compound of sheds and tents behind their house, where Phillip repeatedly raped Dugard and where she gave birth to two children.

Elizabeth Smart was 14 when, in 2002, Brian David Mitchell plucked her from her bedroom in Salt Lake City and kept her for nine months at a nearby campsite, raping her daily. In Austria, Natascha Kampusch spent eight years of her childhood imprisoned in a cellar. For 24 years, Elisabeth Fritzl's father stashed her in a basement dungeon, where he raped her and fathered seven children. And then there's Knight, whose torture was so brutal that, as Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty puts it, "no one went through what [she] went through, barring the Korean or Vietnam prisoners, and they didn't go through it as long."

These stories are so darkly fascinating that many have been adapted into books, movies and TV shows. A Lifetime Original Movie, Cleveland Abduction, based on Knight's story, aired in May. The two other women Castro abducted, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, co-authored Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland. Smart wrote My Story. Dugard penned A Stolen Life: A Memoir. All four books became New York Times best-sellers. Kampusch recounted her ordeal in 3,096 Days in Captivity, and she, Smart and Dugard were also the subjects of TV movies and films.

Hollywood loves to glamorize torture and sexual violence, from ripped-from-the-headlines tales to the 1991 thriller The Silence of the Lambs, about an FBI trainee (Jodie Foster) interviewing a brilliant psychiatrist turned cannibalistic psychopath, and Liam Neeson hunting down sex traffickers in Taken. And that makes it even harder to identify with real-life survivors of real-life cases. Perhaps for good reason: "None of us wants to imagine ourselves as that vulnerable," Shapiro says. " We say, 'They must have been implicated in their captivity in some way.' Or we focus for five minutes on the sensational details and the trial and then stop thinking about it."

It's a lot easier to focus on women like Knight when they're rescued&mdashwhen their futures are filled with opportunity&mdashthan a few years later, when the sparkling promise of being saved may have given way to personal or professional struggles, or depression, or worse.

Recovery for the victims of these monsters is a lifelong maze, sometimes without a very bright light at the end. Survivors like Knight rarely have the chance to talk to someone who truly understands&mdashfrom personal experience&mdashthe extended, twisted degradation they endured. Some are left dangling from a precipice that we'd rather not help them scale, either because we simply don't know how to or because it's easier to pretend they aren't dangling at all.

Sleeping in a Blue Garbage Can

Before Knight wandered into that Family Dollar store and accepted a ride from Castro, she had already survived a childhood mired in hardships. She grew up in a frenetic haze of poverty and filth, where school was an afterthought, soap and toothpaste were luxuries, and Pop-Tarts and SpaghettiOs were as nutritious as things got. She and her younger twin brothers, Eddie and Freddie, spent about a year living in a brown station wagon, and when their parents&mdashwho she says rarely held steady jobs&mdashfinally moved the family into a house, it was in a neighborhood crawling with prostitutes and drug dealers. They moved often, and with each new home came a revolving door of relatives, roommates and strangers.

"I have very few happy memories of my childhood," Knight says. She goes silent, as if searching for something she even wants to remember. "Playing with my brothers. Running around. Tag was our favorite game."

In school, Knight was teased incessantly, but life at home was worse: A male family member started molesting her when she was 5 years old, and the abuse escalated over the years from a couple of times a week to almost daily. "It's like I was buried six feet under and screaming and nobody can hear a thing," she says.

Knight ran away when she was 15. She slept in a blue garbage can beneath an underpass until she fell in with a marijuana dealer who traded her a room for her work as a drug runner. "I didn't think about what was gonna happen to me out there&mdashhow I could get killed or raped again. I thought, This is my way out."

Yet Knight was never very far from home. When a neighbor spotted her and told her father, he dragged her back to their house. The very next night, the same family member raped her again.

Knight passed into ninth grade but hated everything about school: The kids were mean, she was failing her classes, and she constantly felt "stupid." In her sophomore year, she got pregnant by a guy at school. She never told him, nor did she consider having an abortion. "Having my son was one of my happiest memories in my life," she says of Joey, who was born in October 1999. "Just seeing his little 10 fingers and toes, and seeing how beautiful he was. He's a gift."

When the boyfriend of Knight's mother broke Joey's leg, Knight watched helplessly as social services took away the one good thing in her life. She was 21. She didn't have a job or a car. She'd dropped out of high school. She was being molested at home and had no family support. How would she ever get her son back? "It's still a little difficult to talk about, even though it happened a ways back," she whispers. "The day that I disappeared, I didn't know that I was gonna be spending 11 years in a house full of torture, hell, chained up to poles, hanged from ceilings. I didn't know any of this was gonna happen. I was walking to go get my son back."

Raped Six Times a Day

Knight hung between those two poles in the pink bedroom for about a month. Castro would come home from work, lower her onto the floor, rape and beat her, and then, "Shoooo! Right back up," she says. "Oh my God, I felt so nasty. I felt sticky. I burned. I itched. I couldn't scratch. I was crying repeatedly. I was numb. I felt in so much pain."

One day, Castro dragged her into the basement, a stinking hovel of junk, clothes and boxes. He sat her on the floor, stuck another sock in her mouth and wrapped rusted chains around her neck and stomach, securing her body against a pole. Then he shoved a motorcycle helmet on her head.

"Let me see if I can give you an image," Knight tells me, lowering herself onto the floor. We're now sitting in a conference room at her lawyer's office, and she pulls a chair up against the left side of her body and tells me to pretend it's a speaker. There is a pole behind her, she says, then tilts her head backward and to the left into a position I can't imagine holding for more than a few minutes. "This is how my body was. I kept passing in and out because being like that and having a chain and motorcycle helmet on your head, you couldn't breathe, and if you did breathe, you had to breathe shallow."

Castro gave Knight a bucket to use as a toilet and tossed paper napkins at her when she had her period. Once a day, he brought her food from McDonald's. Eventually, he moved her to a bedroom on the second floor, where he took away her clothes and left her to freeze on a soiled mattress for months. He did not permit her to shower until after eight months of captivity. He brought her a puppy, but a few months later, he broke its neck in front of her. And he raped her again and again, sometimes six or seven times a day. Knight got pregnant five times during her 11 years in the house Castro punched and starved her until she miscarried each one.

"I couldn't emphasize enough how much pain it was. And how every day was pure torture: what he did, how he did it or where he did it," Knight says. "It was hard to control my fear 'cause every day I thought I was gonna die. And if I didn't die, I was gonna be in pain."

The smallest luxuries became Knight's lifeline&mdashgreen Dawn dishwashing liquid, which she used to brush her teeth, and the notebooks and pencils Castro brought her, which she used as a diary and sketch pad. When he put a radio and small TV in her bedroom, she finally caught up on the world: Michael Jackson suspended his baby over a balcony! Kelly Clarkson became the first winner on American Idol! Elizabeth Smart was found alive!

In April 2003, Knight was watching TV when she saw a report about a local Cleveland girl named Amanda Berry. She was 16 years old, and she'd gone missing. Soon after, Knight heard Castro blasting loud music from the basement. She had a dreaded hunch: He had someone else trapped down there, and it was probably Berry.

The first time she saw Berry was when Castro brought her into the pink bedroom and declared, "This is my brother's girlfriend." Knight remembers locking eyes with Berry and trading silent, terrified looks. For months after that, the two young women rarely saw each other. But Knight sensed that Castro preferred Berry&mdashhe let her sleep in the bigger room, gave her the color TV and permitted her to wear clothes while Knight went naked.

A year later, 14-year-old Gina DeJesus arrived. Castro chained her and Knight together in a second-floor bedroom. Sometimes he'd rape one of them on one side of the bed while the other one lay there, helpless. "Just to see it happen right in front of you, it's like, Damn, what am I gonna do?" Knight says. "The only thing in my head is, I grab her hand to say, 'Everything's gonna be all right.'" Knight sometimes begged Castro to rape her instead of DeJesus.

Year after year, Castro's hideous abuse continued. He let Berry and DeJesus watch news coverage of the vigils their families held, and told Knight no one was looking for her. He forced Knight to eat a hot dog smothered in mustard, fully aware that she was fiercely allergic to the condiment and pregnant for the fifth time. All the while, he played bass in a local band and entertained friends at his house. Early on in her captivity, when Knight was still chained up in the basement with that helmet over her head, she heard a handful of men talking in Spanish upstairs. Then there was music and singing. "Even if I could have let out a scream from under that helmet, there was no way any of those guys could hear me. The music was way too loud, and I was too far away from them," she wrote in her memoir. "As best as I could tell, those guys came over just about every Saturday." Yet no one&mdashnot neighbors, police or even Castro's own family&mdashhad a clue about the evil universe he'd painstakingly built inside.

Knight did anything she could to make it to the next day. She wrote poetry and drew pictures, dreamed of Arby's fries with hot sauce and constantly thought about her Joey. DeJesus, too, became a reason to live. "We used to sit there and, when he leaves [the house], just blast the music and try to make the best of it by singing, dancing, trying to do something halfway. Something we know everybody else is doing," Knight says of the years she spent trapped in a room with DeJesus. "Adele's 'Skyfall'&mdashme and Gina used to sing it when we were down and out, how we were gonna stick together and see through it all."

On Christmas Day in 2006, Castro took a fourth captive: his daughter. Berry gave birth to a baby girl in a plastic kiddie pool Castro placed on a mattress. He forced Knight to help with the delivery, telling her, "If this baby doesn't come out alive, I'm going to kill you." When the newborn turned blue, Knight performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until she started breathing again. Then Castro forced her to help dispose of the blood.

Berry's daughter, Jocelyn, became the darling of the house&mdasha reason for the three captives to survive. Castro gradually loosened his rules. He nicknamed Jocelyn "Pretty," let her roam around the house and occasionally took her to local parks and even to church. As the years went by, he brought home children's books, Barney flash cards and toys. When Jocelyn got old enough to question the "bracelets" her mother wore, he stopped locking up Berry with chains. Eventually, he did the same for Knight and DeJesus.

'Daddy's Gone!'

On May 6, 2013, Knight woke up hungry and bored, fearing, as always, whatever Castro had in store for her that day. She and DeJesus were sitting in their room. Knight started sketching roses in her notebook. At some point, they turned on the radio, and she remembers hearing Nickelback's "Someday":

How the hell'd we wind up like this?
Why weren't we able
To see the signs that we missed
Try and turn the tables?

(In the memoir DeJesus wrote with Berry, DeJesus recalls that she and Knight were watching a Hilary Duff movie on TV. But Knight told me that she remembered their TV was broken at the time. This contradiction is not at all surprising experts say trauma survivors will remember some parts of their ordeal in extraordinary detail yet have no recollection of other aspects of what happened to them. For the purposes of this article, I have followed Knight's account.)

Suddenly, they heard Jocelyn's little feet pitter-patter upstairs and into Berry's room. "Daddy's gone! Daddy's gone!" she shouted.

"In my head I'm saying, 'Yeah right, another test,'" Knight says, referring to the countless times Castro left the women unchained or unlocked their doors, only to be lurking in another room, waiting to pounce if they tried to escape.

Next, Knight heard Berry's bedroom door swing open and feet shuffling downstairs. About 15 minutes later, there were pounding and kicking noises from the first floor. "We either thought we were being broken into or [Berry and Castro] got into a fight," Knight says. "Then we hear, 'Police! Police!' I told Gina that anybody could say police. You never know. So we're just sittin' there. I tell her to go hide. I'll go check. At first I didn't know the door was unlocked at all. I turned it. I was like, 'Gina, door's unlocked, dude!' I closed it again 'cause I got scared."

Knight and DeJesus had no idea that after Jocelyn ran upstairs shouting "Daddy's gone! Daddy's gone!," Berry went down to investigate. She discovered that Castro had left the house and forgotten to bolt one of the doors. She opened it, only to find the storm door locked. She screamed until a neighbor helped her kick a hole in the bottom big enough for her and Jocelyn, then 6 years old, to squeeze out. They ran to a nearby house and called 911: "Hello, police? Help me! I'm Amanda Berry!" she said. "I've been kidnapped and I've been missing for 10 years and I'm here I'm free now!"

But while waiting in her bedroom prison, Knight couldn't help but wonder whether the voices and noises they heard were part of yet another one of Castro's elaborate tricks. Then Knight saw a real, live police officer walking toward her. She hurled herself into his arms. "I literally felt like I was choking him, like I was hugging the life out of him," she says. "He hands me off to the other officer, and that's when, at the time, Gina was still in the bedroom. I was like, 'Gina, Gina, we're going home!'"

Knight followed the officer downstairs. When she stepped outside, the sun was so bright it burned her eyes. She looked down at what she was wearing&mdasha grimy white T-shirt and a pair of dark pants Castro had found at a yard sale&mdashand felt embarrassed. She was also nauseated and dizzy, and her chest hurt. "Then I felt a cold breeze coming through my nasty, dirty hair. And then I was like, This is real."

'Your Hell Is Just Beginning'

It had been 11 years since anyone had seen Knight alive, 10 for Berry and nine for DeJesus, and their improbable rescue captured the attention of the entire world. "We were in a state of shock for a long time," says McGinty, the county prosecutor. "We couldn't believe it, that they were under our noses&mdashright there!" Berry's and DeJesus's disappearances received airtime on The Oprah Winfrey Show and The Montel Williams Show, inspired heartfelt vigils and led to police task forces. When the two women were released from the hospital, journalists and photographers flocked to their homes and recorded every balloon, stuffed animal and cheer from the crowd.

"The sad part is, no one was looking for Michelle," McGinty says. While Knight had been reported missing in 2002, the Cleveland police removed her missing person entry from an FBI database 15 months later. For the 11 years she was abducted, her case received hardly any publicity. Knight's grandmother, Deborah, told The Plain Dealer that the family assumed she'd run away after losing custody of Joey, but after Knight was rescued, her mother, Barbara, said she'd hung fliers around the city after her daughter disappeared and continued searching even after the police gave up. Barbara, who moved to Florida during Knight's captivity, also painted a very different picture of Michelle's childhood, claiming her daughter helped her grow a vegetable garden and loved doting on puppies and feeding apples to a neighbor's pony.

To all of this, Michelle says, "My mother all the time came up with fake stories." She alleges that Barbara kept her home from school, prohibited her from having friends and forced her to stay inside, all so she could collect Supplemental Security Income. "She made sure that I was dumber than a doorknob just to get the SSI money. But I'm not dumb," Knight said on the Dr. Phil show.

McGinty backs up Michelle's claims. "[Her mother] was getting Social Security money for disabilities, and all those years they forgot to tell the federal government Michelle was missing. They forgot all about her and moved to Florida and were riding her like a pension," he says. "She didn't spend much time protecting her child. The only reason I didn't prosecute her was. it would have traumatized Michelle more."

Castro pleaded guilty to 937 criminal counts, including kidnapping, rape and aggravated murder, and was sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus 1,000 years. Knight was the only survivor who chose to speak at his sentencing hearing. Wearing a gray and black dress and wire-frame glasses, she walked past Castro to the front of the courtroom, brushed back her bangs and said, "I spent 11 years in hell, and now your hell is just beginning. I will overcome all this that happened, but you will face hell for eternity." To this day, she has yet to see Joey, who was adopted by a family during Knight's captivity his adoptive parents have sent Knight photos, but they feel he's too young to know the truth about her.

A month after his sentencing, Castro was found dead in his cell, hanging from his bedsheet with his pants and underwear around his ankles. It was ruled a suicide, and McGinty told the press, "This man couldn't take, for even a month, a small portion of what he had dished out for more than a decade."

'Nobody Was Lookin' for Me Either'

Knight cradles an iPhone in her hands as if it's a wounded bird. "Hello!" she says at the screen. "How are you?"

Smiling back at her is Elaine Cagle. She's 48 years old, lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, and her dirty blond hair falls loosely around her shoulders. For years, she has followed Knight's story from afar, not out of detached fascination but because she, too, survived more than a decade of trauma. This is their first time "meeting."

"I'm. good," Cagle says tentatively. For a moment, neither of them speaks. Then Cagle finds her words: "I actually found out about you when you first was taken," she says. "That's when my heart broke, because after going through what I went through, my mind just raced. Because I knew what I had been through, and I knew that"&mdashshe pauses&mdash"nobody was lookin' for me either. And whenever"&mdashshe pauses again&mdash"you were found, I was like, 'Well, thank God.' So, anyway. " Her voice tightens. "I didn't read your book, I'm really sorry, because I couldn't bring myself to do it."

"That's OK, sweetie," Knight says.

"But I did watch your movie," Cagle says, referring to Lifetime's Cleveland Abduction. "It was really hard. I really did feel the connection."

"Take a breath," Knight says, nervously giggling.

"About me, what happened to me. Is this what you wanna know?"

Cagle takes a deep breath, blinks and begins: "When I was 3, I watched&hellipa man"&mdashshe stops and looks away from the screen&mdash"murder my father. And then I was placed in a foster home, and I was there for almost 10 years, where I was tortured mentally and physically, and sexually abused, and used as a slave. My foster parents' brother was, um, he, um, sexually abused me for almost 10 years. And at night they would lock me in a room and make me use the bucket under the bed [as a toilet]. And they would use a razor strap and beat me. And a horsewhip. And they would wake me up in the morning, and with a wire coat hanger they beat me on the feet. They told me that whenever I came of age, I was gonna marry this guy. It was crazy. It was torture every single day."

"Oh my God," Knight whispers.

"There was a whole lot more to it, but that's the reason why I could so relate to you," Cagle says. "Because then they tied me to a tree and beat me and left me there for days. They ended up putting me somewhere else where I was even more abused. So. " She lets out what sounds like a lifetime of pent-up air.

Knight stares at the screen, fighting back tears.

I first spoke with Cagle in March 2015, and in May, after a handful of hourlong telephone interviews, I asked whether she'd be interested in meeting Knight. She went silent. Through the phone, I heard a sniffle and a sigh: "That sounds great!" she said. "I would really like to talk to her." Cagle knew all about Knight's ordeal. She'd followed the news over the years, read about the rescue and watched some of her TV appearances. "Something struck me with Michelle more than the other ones [Berry and DeJesus]. I couldn't put my finger on why," Cagle says. "I think she has a lot of courage. Probably a lot more than me."

Every minute in the U.S., 24 people are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner. That's more than 12 million women and men a year&mdashand these statistics lowball the problem, since many victims choose not to come forward. Some people, like Knight and Smart, gain a lot of public attention for surviving terrible things. But for every so-called famous survivor, there are many, many more who don't get any attention, yet they've experienced something equally awful. Cagle is one of these anonymous survivors. And like many with her background of abuse, she trusts few people with her story and has struggled to find a sisterhood of women who understand why it can be so hard operating in the real world after spending most of one's childhood surviving a nightmare.

"It can be very risky to tell your story to people around you," says Frank Ochberg, a pioneering psychiatrist and trauma expert who served as an expert witness for the prosecution in the Castro trial. "They don't believe you. Or they pity you. Or they get angry with you. When a person like Michelle or Elaine finds someone who is willing to listen and absorb it and appreciate it, it's important and it's unusual."

During our first interview, I asked Cagle about her childhood. "Have you ever seen Roots?" she asked. I nodded. "OK, well, that was it, that was me. [My foster parents] didn't want a child. They wanted slaves, and that's what we were." Cagle called her foster parents' house "the homestead," and said it didn't have running water, indoor plumbing or electricity. To get there, one had to walk a mile down a dirt road. Every day, Cagle said, she was forced to work in the tobacco fields, and every night she was either locked in her room or sent to her "uncle's" house, where he sexually abused her. She never had shoes and never saw a doctor.

"I have people say, 'Why didn't you just run away?'" Cagle tells Knight during their video chat. "I look at 'em and say, 'Run away where? We were in the custody of the state! They're just gonna take us right back to the situation where we were at. There was nowhere to run to.'"

Knight says, "I have a lot of people asking me the same question: 'Why didn't I escape from the house?' It's kinda hard when you're chained up!"

"Yeah and you've got someone cowering over you with a big whip, and you're in the middle of nowhere," Cagle says.

"Yes!" Knight says. "I can see where you come from, because even though the neighbors were so close, it was still difficult for us to get away. It's like, once we tried, we got knocked right back down."

"Yeah, that's the mind games," Cagle says. "Mmmmm. The mind games."

Knight tells her about the time Castro gave her a puppy and then killed it. "I thought it was a beginning to an end. Like, he was actually starting to be nice, but it was another one of his head games: 'I'm gonna give you something precious, and then I'm gonna rip it away from you just to watch you break.'"

Cagle replies with a story about how her foster parents locked her in an "old-timey wardrobe" for hours at a time. "They would say, 'You're a heathen! Sit in there and think about what you've done wrong. And you better pray to God. By the time we unlock this wardrobe, you better figure out what you've done wrong.'"

"And you wouldn't have a clue," Knight says.

"I was a little child!" Cagle says. "I would sit in there and just be beside myself, just wondering, What did I do wrong?" Cagle is fighting back tears. "Then I would come out. 'Well, did you figure it out?' And if it wasn't right, they would beat me and tell me how horrible I was."

"It's kinda like my mom and my dad telling me that I was worthless, that I wouldn't amount to anything, that I wasn't beautiful," Knight says.

"Oh, yeah, I heard that every day too."

"Stuff happens in life that you can't control, but at least you know now that you've got control over your own life," Knight says. "Whatever you do to make it happy now means more than anything in the world."

Cagle listens, her eyes glistening.

"So how you feeling?" Knight asks, smiling.

Cagle lets loose a big, weepy sigh. "Well. I feel like I've basically emotionally puked all over you!"

"That's good! That's good!" Knight says, laughing. "You're feeling some type of feeling, and that's really good. This is the hardest part for a person that went through what we went through: We do not want to talk about it with a person that don't know nothing about it."

Cagle says she spent eight years living with her foster parents before she was moved to a children's home, then sent back to live with her mother. Life there wasn't much better. She says her mother left her alone with a man who forced her to play Russian roulette. "My mom had such a drug habit that she pimped me out!" According to Cagle, her mother and both foster parents are dead. In her 20s, Cagle put herself through college, earning a degree in basic law enforcement training at North Carolina's Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and pursued careers as a volunteer firefighter with the West Buncombe Fire Department, phlebotomist at Mission Hospital in Asheville and deputy sheriff in the Buncombe County Sheriff's Office. She also briefly served in the Army Reserve. "I'm really crying on the inside. It's like, Dang. Jeez! I'm disabled now. I don't do anything. I've had so many health problems it isn't even funny," she says. After suffering a panic attack during her stint as a police officer, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. She also suffers from agoraphobia. Through it all, her wife, Deborah Cagle, has been a loving, supportive constant. They met 14 years ago, entered into a civil union in 2004 and legally married in 2010.

Knight, too, faces serious health problems, from nerve damage in her arm to chronically cold hands caused by bad blood flow and deteriorating eyesight. She'll likely never be able to have children. And she has yet to see Joey again. "As bad as Gina and Amanda had it, and they had it bad, when Michelle came out, she couldn't even be reunited with her own child. That's awful!" McGinty says. "Lawyers told her, 'You wanna fight, we'll put up a fight, we'll get visitation.' But she realized it would be too disruptive of that child's life. That's the ultimate sacrifice to me. So her torture went on."

Knight wants to go back to school, but not just yet. First, she's taking an almost schizophrenic approach to her future and trying a little bit of everything: gardening, cooking, nesting at home, writing music. In May, she recorded her first single, "Survivor." She's been in therapy and, over the past two years, overcome her fears of ropes, chains and helmets. "I was even able to ride a motorcycle!" she says. She dedicates much of her time to helping other survivors. This year, she spoke at the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, the Northeast Ohio Amber Alert Committee and the Purple Project Foster Care Youth Conference. (She earns a living through her public appearances, along with financial support from the Cleveland Courage Fund, which raised over $1.2 million to support Knight, DeJesus, Berry and her daughter.) On her Facebook page, Knight shares updates from her life and offers advice to other survivors of abuse.

"I love helping people and seeing the smile on their face even when they feel down," she tells Cagle. "It lets me know that I'm worth something. People don't understand how our lives are and how we can contribute a lot and help people. They see us as a disease. Like a drug addict. They see us and they label us, and they don't realize we are just as human as everyone else."

"Thank you," Cagle says. "Thank you."

Knight turns and looks at me, her voice getting higher as she talks. "I want people to know that I'm not just a story they threw on TV. I'm a person that has real feelings, just like her, that wants to be heard and wants their story to be out there." She takes a deep breath, sniffles and looks back at Cagle, who's crying and smiling.

"They were raised by wolves," Ochberg says of Knight and Cagle. "But when a survivor has a sense that enough people understand that this did happen and that she has dignity and deserves honor rather than pity, anger or disbelief&mdashwhen she finds enough people who can give her that kind of reflection&mdashshe can heal."


Police soon arrested Castro, 52, the owner of the Seymour property who was out drinking when Berry made her escape. Castro reportedly kept the women chained in the basement of the home for long periods of time, that they had almost never left the property and that they generally endured horrifying treatment. Berry had a daughter, Jocelyn (the 6-year-old child who accompanied her at the time of her escape), while being held captive, and a paternity test conducted after her escape proved that Castro was the father.

With his siblings arrested as well but not brought up on any charges, Castro was formally accused of kidnapping Berry, DeJesus and Knight and of keeping them hostage at his Cleveland home. He was indicted on 329 charges, including 177 counts of kidnapping, 139 counts of rape and two counts of aggravated murder for forcing abortions. 

Late that July, Castro pleaded guilty to kidnapping and raping Berry, Knight and DeJesus. He entered this plea to avoid the death penalty. On August 1, Castro was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years without the possibility of parole. Berry did not attend the hearing, but her fellow victim Knight was present. Before his sentence was announced, she told Castro, "I spent 11 years of hell. Now your hell is just beginning," according to a Reuters news report. 

Berry&aposs sister, Beth Serrano, also spoke at Castro&aposs sentencing hearing. She described how her sister "doesn&apost want to talk about" the abuse she suffered at Castro&aposs hands and she is trying to focus on protecting her daughter. 

Castro was found dead in his prison cell on September 3, 2013. He had hanged himself with a bedsheet.


Ohio Kidnapping Survivors Recount Captivity, Escape From Horror

House of horrors: The exterior of the Cleveland house where Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were held captive.

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

On the day before her 17th birthday, in 2003, Amanda Berry disappeared as she made her way home from her job at a Burger King in Cleveland. A year later, another Cleveland teen, 14-year-old Gina DeJesus, vanished while returning from middle school. Searches for both girls came up empty, and as the years passed it seemed less and less likely that either girl would ever be seen again.

In fact, the girls were still in Cleveland. They had been abducted by a man named Ariel Castro, who had kidnapped another young woman, Michelle Knight, in 2002.

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Berry, DeJesus and journalist Mary Jordan tell Fresh Air's Terry Gross about the girls' years in captivity, during which time Castro kept Berry, DeJesus and Knight chained up in his boarded-up home. He raped them and nearly starved them to death. Berry became pregnant with Castro's child, a girl named Jocelyn, who was born in 2006.

Finally, on May 6, 2013, more than 10 years after she was abducted, Berry saw an opportunity to escape. Castro left the house and neglected to lock one of the doors. Berry ran to the unlocked door, but was stopped by a second locked door. She started flagging down a neighbor.

"The neighbor next door, he saw me waving my hand down and I'm kind of going crazy on the door," Berry tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. The neighbor "was just looking at the door to figure out something. So he kind of kicks the bottom . so I kicked it out a little bit more just enough so I could fit through there and I climbed out and then I had my daughter climb out and we were free."

Berry called the police, who were shocked to find the girls alive.

"The whole miracle in this story is that the longer someone is kidnapped the less likely [it is] that they are alive," Jordan says.

Castro was arrested soon after and later sentenced to life plus 1,000 years in prison. He committed suicide after serving about a month in prison.

Berry and DeJesus, with the help of Jordan and fellow journalist Kevin Sullivan, recount the story of their captivity and escape in Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland.

Interview Highlights

A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland

by Amanda Berry , Gina Dejesus , Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan

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On getting in Castro's car and realizing it was a mistake

DeJesus (who was kidnapped in 2004): I was kind of freaking out a little bit when he didn't turn around, but then when he started talking to me about his daughter and how he was going to take his daughter to the mall and stuff, I kind of, I little bit relaxed, but not really because I was still a little scared.

Berry (who was kidnapped in 2003): He wasn't mean in the car. Like, he was talkative and he kept the conversation going and he was talking about his kids and how one of his kids worked at the Burger King that I worked at because I had my uniform on, so he was talking about that for a couple of minutes. I couldn't tell that he was this horrible man talking to him in the van.

On being chained in the house

Berry: [It was] like 5 feet, I think? I couldn't really do nothing. You had enough room to get up and use the bathroom or something like that. . There was a garbage can in there that I had to use for the bathroom.

It was tough trying to sleep. That chain was around my stomach and there was a big lock on it. . So many times I wanted to turn onto my side I would have to move the chain to put the lock on the front of my stomach or I'd be lying on this big chain and this big lock and it was just uncomfortable.

On how Castro managed to keep his kidnappings a secret

Jordan: He was very clever. You can't underestimate how smooth he was. . If you walked down the street, you didn't see that he had put a door and nailed it to those windows and had quilts [up], because he had pulled the curtains. He had the curtains inside and he tidied up his front lawn. His house was a mess because he was a big hoarder, but he was very clever. He was saying hello to neighbors he was sweet he drove the school bus he was good to his friends. He just had a double life and when he walked inside his front door, he became a whole other violent person.

On Castro's sex addiction and history of domestic violence

Jordan: He had a real problem with women to say the least. . Before he started kidnapping girls he had a common-law wife and he beat her . he stomped on her head, broke her teeth. He said to Amanda and Gina in the house that he hated his mother. He also, by the way, went to [his mother's] house. He was very hard to figure out.

On getting pregnant and having Castro's baby

Berry: I didn't know what was going to happen or what he was going to say, but I mean, I wanted to keep the baby, I just wasn't sure what he was going to do. .

[When she was older, my daughter] saw the chains and we had to tell her that they were bracelets and she would notice that he would lock the door when he left and she would ask him, "Why do you lock to door?" and "Why can't you leave the door unlocked? Why can't you leave the door open?" And he would just come up with a story to tell her and that would be that.

On hearing a recording of Berry's 911 call

Jordan: You can hear how desperate and frantic it was . that desperation in the voice was chilling. It really went through the city, right through the spine of the city, "Help me, help me, I'm Amanda Berry."

On re-entry into everyday life

Berry: It was scary at first, I mean, it still is a little bit. I kind of had to get used to everything again, and people and just everyday life. It wasn't easy. . Even if you're going to the store to pay for something, something as simple as that, you're just not used to it. Or walking to the park, I was scared for a while to even walk outside by myself.

DeJesus: Trusting people and walking to the corner store and always looking back to see if someone is right behind you, ready to take you or something.

On why she wanted to tell this story

Jordan: I've been a correspondent and lived around the world and seen really sad, painful tragedies and you always wonder how people can get through pain, and here I talk to Amanda and Gina and made lifelong friends and helped them try to explain to everyone else how you do it. . what you do is you find a mental life raft, somehow. They'll tell you. For Amanda and Gina, their life raft was — they clung to hope that they would get out of there — that they would outlast their captor and they would get back to their families.


Three missing Ohio women found after 10 years being held hostage by kidnappers [UPDATES]

On May 6, 2013, three women were found alive in a two-story home at 2207 Seymore Ave. in a Cleveland, Ohio neighborhood.  The women had mysteriously vanished nearly a decade earlier.  Amanda Berry was last seen after finishing her shift at a Burger King in Cleveland on April 21, 2003. The last communication from here was a phone call to her sister to say she was getting a ride home from work, which was only a 10 minute walk from her home.  It was the eve of her 17th birthday.  Witnesses said they saw Amanda enter a white, four-door sedan with three men inside.  A few days later, family members received a call from a male who tells the family that she will be released in a few days.

Georgina "Gina" DeJesus disappeared nearly a year later, in April 2004. She was 14 and was last seen walking home from Wilbur Wright Middle School.  Her disappearance was quickly thought to be related to the Amanda Berry disappearance – both vanished within the same five-block area, were the same height, and had no history of running away from home.  A week after DeJesus disappeared, 200 people turned out to distribute fliers door to door, covering a 50-block area around her home and a half-mile radius around her school.  Police notified the public that they were looking for a Hispanic man driving a light-colored, older model car.

Michelle Knight vanished in 2002, at age 21.  She was last seen at a cousin’s house and was reported missing the following day.  Some family members believed she may have ran away on her own because she was angry that she had lost custody of her young son.  As a result, her disappearance was not widely publicized.

All three were kidnapped on the same street, just three miles from where they were being held captive.  A fourth victim, a six-year old girl, was also found and later discovered to be the child of Amanda Berry, born in children’s plastic swimming pool, three years after Amanda was kidnapped.  The women were tied up and chained inside the home (ropes and chains were found hanging from the ceilings of the home) where they were repeatedly physically and sexually abused during their decade of imprisonment.

A neighbor steps in to help

Their captor left the home to visit a nearby McDonald’s restaurant.  Amanda Berry noticed that he had forgotten to lock the “big inside door” on his way out and took advantage of his mistake.  Neighbor Charles Ramsey was sitting down to a fast food meal that night when he heard screaming outside.  He stepped outside to investigate.

"I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of a house.  I go on the porch and she says, ‘help me get out. I’ve been in here a long time.’ “

Ramsey crossed the street to the home where he found a panicked woman sticking her hand through a small gap in the metal storm door.  Ramsey  kicked in the bottom of the door, freeing the young woman and a small child, who quickly pleaded with him to call the police.  Ramsey took the woman and child back across the street to his home where he listened to the 911 call the woman made.

"Help me, I am Amanda Berry.  I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years. And I’m here, I’m free now.  I need them now before he gets back!"

The woman explained to the 911 operator that two other women were still being held captive inside the home.  Police swiftly moved in on the house where the three women said they had been held.  According to the police report:

"As we neared the top of the steps, Officer Espada hollered out, ‘Cleveland Police,’ at which time … Knight ran and threw herself into (Officer) Espada’s arms. We then asked if there was anyone else upstairs with her, when (DeJesus) came out of the bedroom.  Espada then put Knight down and DeJesus jumped into the officer’s arms.”

Lead by a vehicle description given by the kidnapped women, they later arrested a 52-year-old man at a local McDonalds, identified as Ariel Castro, a former Cleveland Metropolitan School District school bus driver. Two others, identified as his brothers Pedro J. Castro and Onil Castro, ages 54 and 50 respectively, were also arrested.  The FBI immediately moved in to collect evidence.

The women and child were taken to MetroHealth Medical Center, where they were reported as suffering from severe dehydration and slightly malnourished.  It was learned that at least one of the women had been pregnant several times but her captors first starved and then beat her in the stomach until the baby was aborted (miscarried).

Ariel Castro

The disappearances of Amanda and Gina captured the attention of the entire city for the past decade, as their relatives had continually held vigils and kept the story alive in the local press.  Neighbors were shocked to hear that three women had been held in captivity in the home for nearly a decade.  One neighbor commented:

"We see this dude every day. I’ve been here a year. I barbecued with this dude. We eat ribs and listen to salsa music.  We never saw the girls there, and we were always outside.  We only saw the guy."

One neighbor however, said his sister got a bad vibe from the house and asked him not to let the children play unsupervised nearby. He said he heard yelling in the house in November 2011 and called police to investigate, but they left after no one answered the door.  Another incident occurred in 2004 when welfare officials first visited the house after Castro reportedly left a child on a school bus. The ensuing investigation found no criminal intent on Castro’s part. Castro worked as a school bus driver until he was fired last November for what school officials called “a lack of judgment.”

A further call came from some women who lived in a nearby apartment building. The women – who have not been identified – claimed they saw three young girls crawling on all fours with dog leashes around their necks, being led by three men. They apparently waited for two hours, but police did not respond to their calls.

Remarkably, Castro’s son, also named Ariel who now goes by ‘Anthony’, penned an article for the Cleveland Plain Press about the disappearance of Miss DeJesus back in 2004 when he was a journalism student at Bowling Green State University (see complete article text below).  In the process of his reporting, the son appears to have interviewed the missing girl’s mother.

Castro had moved into the area in 1992. Neighbors considered him a loner who kept shades drawn over his windows and would only leave the home at night.  Castro covered his backyard with tarpaulin so that no one could see inside and other reports indicated that he obsessively padlocked the doors leading to his basement, attic and garage, and never let anyone, even his family, inside.

One neighbor noted how he had seen Castro at the park a couple of days earlier with a little girl and asked who it was.  He said it was his girlfriend’s daughter.

Close neighbors, who failed to notice anything amiss at the home during the 9 years that the girls were held captive, were bewildered and in many cases, suffered great guilt.  One neighbor noted:

“I’m not the only one on the block that feels ashamed to know that we didn’t notice anything. I mean, I feel like my head’s low, I work at a school, I work with kids, my head’s – I have a heavy heart right now.”

The Arrest

After Berry explained the situation to police, they entered the home where they found the remaining two captives.  From the victims, the obtained a description of Castro’s vehicle and quickly issued an APB (All-Points Bulletin).  Officers spotted the vehicle in the area and followed it into a McDonald’s parking lot (on Clark Avenue) where they arrested Ariel and Orin Castro.  Pedro Castro was arrested shortly thereafter at his home.  He was passed out in the backyard of the home wearing a pair of shorts but no shirt.

The Investigation

A search of the home revealed a few interesting finds.  A copy of a letter written by Ariel Castro in 2004 gave insight into the mind of a demented criminal.  He was perfectly aware that his actions were wrong although he attempted to push the blame on the victims themselves.

“I am a sexual predator. I need help.” he wrote. “They are here against their will because they made a mistake of getting in a car with a total stranger.”

In a chilling prelude to his last capture, he wrote:

“I don’t know why I kept looking for another. I already had 2 in my possession.”

After questioning the kidnapped women, details of how they were kidnapped were revealed.

Knight said she was in the area of West 106th Street and Lorain Avenue when Castro offered her a ride home in August 2002, the report said. Instead, Castro took her to his house where he chained her up in the basement, the report said.

Berry was walking home in April, 2003 from Burger King on West 110th Street and Lorain Avenue when Castro offered her a ride home, the report said. Castro told her that his son also worked at Burger King.

DeJesus told police that Castro initially approached her with Castro’s daughter, the report said. The two girls went to school together. Castro later returned without his daughter and told DeJesus that he would give her a ride to his house so they could hang out, the report said.  Instead, like the other two girls, Castro drove DeJesus to his house.

Ariel Castro was charged with four counts of kidnaping and three counts of rape.

The Transcripts

The transcript of Amanda Berry 911 call to police is below.  Immediately there was controversy around the 911 dispatcher’s handling of the phone call.

Caller: Help me. I’m Amanda Berry.

Dispatcher: You need police, fire, ambulance?

Caller: I need police.

Dispatcher: OK, and what’s going on there?

Caller: I’ve been kidnapped and I’ve been missing for 10 years, and I’m, I’m here, I’m free now.

Dispatcher: OK, and what’s your address?

Caller: 2207 Seymour Avenue.

Dispatcher: 2207 Seymour. Looks like you’re calling me from 2210.

Caller: Huh?

Dispatcher: Looks like you’re calling me from 2210.

Caller: I can’t hear you.

Dispatcher: Looks like you’re calling me from 2210 Seymour.

Caller: I’m across the street I’m using the phone.

Dispatcher: OK, stay there with those neighbors. Talk to police when they get there.

Caller: (Crying)

Dispatcher: OK, talk to police when they get there.

Caller: OK. Hello?

Dispatcher: OK, talk to the police when they get there.

Caller: OK (unintelligible).

Dispatcher: We’re going to send them as soon as we get a car open.

Caller: No, I need them now before he gets back.

Dispatcher: All right we’re sending them, OK?

Caller: OK, I mean, like …

Dispatcher: Who’s the guy you’re trying — who’s the guy who went out?

Caller: Um, his name is Ariel Castro.

Dispatcher: OK. How old is he?

Caller: He’s like 52.

Dispatcher: And, uh –

Caller: I’m Amanda Berry. I’ve been on the news for the last 10 years.

Dispatcher: I got, I got that, dear. (Unintelligible) And, you say, what was his name again?

Caller: Uh, Ariel Castro.

Dispatcher: And is he white, black or Hispanic?

Caller: Uh, Hispanic.

Dispatcher: What’s he wearing?

Caller (agitated): I don’t know, ’cause he’s not here right now. That’s why I ran away.

Dispatcher: When he left, what was he wearing?

Caller: Who knows (unintelligible).

Dispatcher: The police are on their way talk to them when they get there.

Caller: Huh? I – OK.

Dispatcher: I told you they’re on their way talk to them when they get there, OK.

Caller: All right, OK. Bye.

While Amanda Berry was on the phone with 911, her neighbor (who helped rescue her) was also talking to 911 on the phone.  Here is the transcript of the Charles Ramsey 911 call:

Cleveland 911. Police, ambulance, or fire

Charles Ramsey: Yeah, hey bro. I’m at 2207 Seymore, West 25th. Hey, check this out. I just came from McDonald’s, right. I’m on my porch eatin’ my lil’ food, right. This broad is trying to break out the fucking house next door to me. So, it’s a bunch of people street right now and shit. So we like, what’s wrong, what’s the problem? She like, this motherfucker done kidnapped me and my daughter and we been in this bitch. She said her name was Linda Berry or some shit. I don’t know who the fuck that is. I just moved over here, bruh. I don’t … that, you know what I mean.

Dispatcher: Sir, sir, sir, sir, sir. Sir, you have to calm down and slow down. Is she still in the street?

Charles Ramsey: Uh, uh, Seymore Ave.

Dispatcher: And miss, is she still in the street or where did she go?

Charles Ramsey: Yeah, I’m lookin’ at her! She right now, she callin’ y’all. She on another phone.

Dispatcher: Is she black, white, or hispanic?

Charles Ramsey: Uh, she white, but the baby look hispanic.

Dispatcher: Okay, what is she wearing?

Charles Ramsey: Uh, white tanktop, light blue, uh, sweatpants. Like a wife beater.

Dispatcher: Do you know the address next door, that she said she was in?

Charles Ramsey: Yeah, 2207, I’m lookin’ at it!

Dispatcher: Okay, I thought that was your address. So that, that house…

Charles Ramsey: No, no. I’m smarter than that, bruh. I’m telling you where the crime was, not my house.

Dispatcher: Okay look, sir, we can’t talk at the same time. Do you wanna leave your name and number?

Charles Ramsey: Charles Ramsey, R-A-M-S-E-Y.

Dispatcher: What’s the phone number?

Charles Ramsey: [NOT SHOWN]

Dispatcher: Are the people she said that did this, are they still in the house?

Charles Ramsey: I don’t have a fuckin’ clue, bruh. I’m just standin’ out here with McDonald’s.

Dispatcher: Can you ask her if she needs an ambulance?

Charles Ramsey: You need an ambulance, or what? She need everything. She’s, she’s in a panic, bruh. I bet she been kidnapped, so put yourself in her shoes.

Dispatcher: We’ll send the police out. Thank you.

Charles Ramsey: There you go!

There have been several missing girls from the Cleveland area during the page decade.  How or if they relate to the current case is currently unknown.  List of other children missing from Cleveland, Ohio:

Ashley Summers (15):  Missing Since 11/5/07, Cleveland, Ohio.

Norma Rodriguez (17):  Missing Since 11/4/07, Westlake, Ohio.

Ashley Nicole Summers (15):  Missing Since 7/9/07, from Cleveland, Ohio.

Jennifer G. Decaprio (15):  Missing Since 12/18/06, Berea, Ohio.

Christina Adkins (now 32):  Missing Since 1/10/95, Cleveland, Ohio.

Police had long thought the Ashley Summers disappearance was related to the Amanda Berry disappearance.

Article penned by Ariel Castro’s son regarding Gina DeJesus

Article penned by Ariel Castro’s son, Anthony, about the disappearance of Gina DeJesus.  The article was published in the Plain Press in 2004.

Gina DeJesus’ disappearance has changed her neighborhood – by Ariel Castro

(Plain Press, June 2004) Since April 2, 2004 , the day 14-year-old Gina DeJesus was last seen on her way home from Wilbur Wright Middle School , neighborhood residents have been taken by an overwhelming need for caution. Parents are more strictly enforcing curfews, encouraging their children to walk in groups, or driving them to and from school when they had previously walked alone.

“You can tell the difference,” DeJesus’ mother, Nancy Ruiz said. “People are watching out for each other’s kids. It’s a shame that a tragedy had to happen for me to really know my neighbors. Bless their hearts, they’ve been great.”

On Cleveland ’s west side, it is difficult to go any length of time without seeing Gina’s picture on telephone poles, in windows, or on cars along the busy streets.

“People are really looking out for my daughter,” Ruiz said.

For seven weeks, Gina’s family has been organizing searches, holding prayer vigils, posting fliers and calling press conferences. Despite the many tips and rumors that have been circulating in the neighborhood, there has been no sign of her.

One thing is for certain, however. Almost everyone feels a connection with the family, and Gina’s disappearance has the whole area talking.

“It’s traumatized a lot of people,” Bob Zak, Safety Coordinator of the Westown Community Development Corporation, said. “People are suspicious of everyone. Kids, parents, and grandparents are afraid.”

The organization serves Cleveland ’s Ward 19, which stretches from West Boulevard to West 134th Street .

Parents and relatives waiting for their children as school let out at Wilbur Wright recently expressed concern about the number of sex offenders living and working in the area.

“I really believe there needs to be more security,” Vaneetha Smith said as she waited for her niece outside Wilbur Wright Middle School at the end of the day. “We have too many kidnappings, and they should crack down on all the sex offenders in the area.”

Luis Perez echoed Smith’s concerns as he waited for his niece at the school.

“I think the neighborhood is pretty bad,” he said. “You have to be aware of some people out there.”

The Ohio Electronic Sex Offender Registration and Notification (eSORN) database lists 133 sex offenders living or working in Gina’s immediate zip code. Many residents of the area, however, cannot use the database, as they do not have access to the Internet at home.

“I have been here almost four years and I have been notified of only one sex offender,” Ruiz said. “And he lives only about 1,000 feet away from here.”

Ohio law prohibits sex offenders who are required to register from establishing their residence within 1,000 feet of school buildings.

“There is no enforcing the laws because they still live right next to the schools and the bus stops,” Ruiz said. She believes the process of registering sex offenders is essentially a waste of time.

At a Ward 19 crime watch meeting, one of ten monthly, residents describe the area as a multi-ethnic community where people work and try to keep their housing up to par. They feel the disappearance of Amanda Berry on April 21, 2003 was a wake-up call, but Gina’s case really caught everyone’s attention.

Many residents believe the schools and the city have more work to do to help out.

“There is not enough supervision at the schools and when the kids get out, they still run through the streets,” Smith said. “They say that once they leave the school premises, the school is not responsible for them. But until they reach their house, I believe they are. They should be more concerned with their safety.”

“The school is supposed to be a safe place,” Perez said. “They need more police around the schools, surrounding the area. Without that, it’s just going to keep on going and there will be more innocent people getting hurt.”

Isaac Rodriguez has seen some changes happen at Wilbur Wright.

“There are more security guards at the school now,” the father of two middle school students said. “They have been having assemblies and talking to the kids about the danger.”

“When you send your kids out to school now”, Smith said, “you don’t know if they are going to make it home or not. From West 105th to [West 110th], anything could happen. I feel the mayor should do something about that. The children should be our first priority, no matter what else is going on in the city.”

Zak, a former Cleveland police officer of 30 years, believes the community is feeling the effects of the city’s cuts in the police force.

“The first thing a city should do is protect its citizens,” he said. Although police cannot be on the scene of every crime as they occur, Zak reports that residents are getting responses to calls “one, two, and four hours later.”

Cuts in the police force are not the only budget changes that are directly affecting residents. The Cleveland Municipal School District is also mulling how it will eliminate its projected $100 million budget deficit. Among the items cut will be purchased services, employee overtime, supplemental pay, textbooks, school staff and student transportation.


The Cleveland Kidnapping Case: A timeline of events

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A year ago, the case of three long-missing Cleveland women found alive in the home of their captor Ariel Castro stunned the tight-knit community and drew intense media spotlight. Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, who vanished separately between 2002 and 2004, were freed in a dramatic rescue May 6, 2013 after about a decade in captivity in Castro's Cleveland home.

Disturbing new photos from inside Castro home 9 photos Berry kicked in a screen door and called 911, telling a dispatcher, "I've been kidnapped, and I've been missing for 10 years, and I'm here. I'm free now."

Police said the women were restrained and tortured, suffering prolonged sexual and psychological abuse by Castro, who pleaded guilty to more than 900 charges including rape and kidnapping and was later found dead in his cell in an apparent suicide.

"The fact that they were found after 10 years in captivity is remarkable - we've not seen a case like that where three women were held together and found alive," said Bob Lowery, senior executive director of the Missing Children Division at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "The fact that they were re-united with their families has touched all our hearts."

Lowery says his group, which helped in the search for DeJesus and Berry, is involved with the cases of between 3,500 and 4,000 long-missing children who vanished anywhere from six months ago to 50 years ago.

Ohio women missing for nearly 10 years found alive 14 photos "These women serve very vividly as a reminder to all of us not to give up hope on missing kids," Lowery said.

Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus both said in statements released Monday that they are thankful and growing in many ways. DeJesus said she's enjoying learning how to drive and use new technology, and Berry pledged support to families of other victims.

Trending News

"On this day, we decided that the right place for us to be was with other families who have gone through what our family has gone through," Berry said. "I want these families to know they will always have a special place in our hearts."

Michelle Knight said in an interview on NBC's "Today" show Monday that she forgives Castro. She said her captor deserves forgiveness because she'd want to be forgiven if she did wrong, and "that's the way of life."

Knight's book recounting her years in captivity is set to be released Tuesday, and Berry and DeJesus are also collaborating on a book. The two are set to be honored Tuesday evening by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Washington, D.C.

A year after the dramatic rescue of the three women, Crimesider is looking back at how the high-profile case unfolded. Following is a timeline of events.

Aug. 22, 2002 - 21-year-old Cleveland woman Michelle Knight is last seen at her cousin's house. Police later said that Ariel Castro lured her into his home with the offer of a puppy for her son and restrained her with extension cords, beginning her 11-year captivity.

April 21, 2003 - A day shy of her 17th birthday, Amanda Berry vanishes. She's last seen leaving her part-time job at a Burger King, and police would later say that Castro offered her a ride and lured her into his home by telling her his daughter, whom she knew, was inside.

January 2004 - Police go to Ariel Castro's home at 2207 Seymour Ave., about 3 miles from where Knight and Berry were last seen. No one answers the door. Child welfare officials had alerted police that Castro, a school bus driver, apparently left a child unattended on a bus. Police later spoke to Castro and determined there was no criminal intent.

April 2, 2004 -14-year-old Gina DeJesus goes missing in the same area as she's walking home from school. Police later said DeJesus, who was friends with Castro's daughter, was held inside the home after Castro asked her to help him carry a speaker to his car. Castro trapped her in the basement by telling her the door was an exit, police said.

March 2, 2006 - Berry's mother Louwana Miller, 43, dies after being hospitalized with pancreatitis and other ailments. She had spent the previous three years looking for her daughter.

November, 2011 - A neighbor, Israel Lugo, said he heard pounding on some of the doors of Castro's house, which had plastic bags on the windows. Lugo said officers knocked on the front door, but no one answered. Officers walked around outside the house and left, Lugo said.

July 2012 -Neighbor Elsie Cintron claims she contacted police at this time to report strange activity at the Castro house, including a naked woman crawling in the backyard and a little girl in the attic window.

May 6, 2013 - Amanda Berry, 27, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32, are discovered alive in Castro's Clevland home, along with a six-year-old girl who would later be identified as the daughter of Berry and Castro.

Berry kicked in a screen door, and yelled to neighbor Charles Ramsey for help. She's heard on a 911 call saying, "I've been kidnapped, and I've been missing for 10 years, and I'm here. I'm free now."

May 8, 2013 - Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus return to their family's home to cheers and crowds of supporters. Family and neighbors express shock that the long-missing women were being held so close to home by a neighborhood bus driver many were familiar with.

May 9, 2013 - Ariel Castro, 53, appears in court after appearances by his two brothers, Pedro and Onil, who were also taken into custody on unrelated charges and cleared of any wrongdoing in the case. Police said there was no indication they knew about the women's captivity. Facing four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape, Ariel Castro is held on $8 million bail.

According to a police report obtained by CBS News, Knight told investigators that Castro forced her to deliver Berry's baby while in captivity, and he warned her if the baby were to die, he would kill her.

Knight told police, according to the report, that Castro impregnated her "at least 5 times," but that each time he would starve her and then punch her in the stomach to induce a miscarriage.

May 10, 2013 - Cuyahoga County prosecutor Thomas McGinty says he may charge Castro with aggravated murder related to pregnancies terminated by force and hints that he could seek the death penalty.

Police said the women were apparently bound by ropes and chains and suffered prolonged sexual and psychological abuse.

July 12, 2013 - Castro is indicted on 977 charges including aggravated murder, kidnapping and rape. The charges expand on an earlier 329-count indictment that covered only part of the time frame of the alleged crimes.

July 26, 2013 - Castro accepts a plea deal that spares him the death penalty, pleading guilty to an amended indictment that includes 937 charges.

"I knew I was going to get pretty much the book thrown at me," Castro says, appearing in court. He says he is "fully aware" of the terms of the plea agreement and consented to it, adding, "There are some things I don't understand. because of my sexual problem."

"To clear the record, I am not a monster, I did not prey on these women, I just acted on my sexual instincts because of my sexual addiction," Castro says. "As God is my witness, I never beat these women like they're trying to say I did. I never tortured them."

"You took 11 years of my life away, and now I have got it back," Knight says. "I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning."

Castro is sentenced to life without parole plus an additional 1,000 years.

August 7, 2013 - Castro's Cleveland home is demolished. Victim Michelle Knight makes a brief appearance and releases balloons into the air.

September 3, 2013 - Castro is found dead in his cell, hanging from a bedsheet, shortly more than a month into his life sentence. A report later confirmed his cause of death was suicide, CBS affiliate WOIO reported.


Ohio Kidnapping Police Report Details Victims' Abductions, Years In Captivity

A police report brought to light more disturbing details of the kidnapping of three Ohio women imprisoned in a squalid house for about decade.

Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight vanished from the area within two years of each other, and were recovered Monday from a home on Seymour Avenue in Cleveland after neighbors heard Berry screaming for help. Ariel Castro, 52, is accused of having abducted, imprisoned and abused the young women, all of whom gave statements for the police report, which was obtained recently by several news outlets, including the the Cleveland Plain Dealer, NBC local affiliate WKYC and The New York Times.

Among the information in the report is an account from Michelle Knight, abducted in 2002, about how she was impregnated by Castro at least five times. Knight told police Castro caused her to miscarry by starving and beating her.

Amanda Berry, abducted in April of 2003, also became pregnant while being held in the house. Knight told police that she served as Berry's midwife, and that Castro threatened to kill her if the baby did not survive.

Castro allegedly ensnared his victims by luring them into his car. Berry told police that she was walking home from work at Burger King when Castro pulled over to offer her a ride home, claiming that his son also worked at the restaurant.

Gina DeJesus, who vanished in 2004 while she was walking home from school, told police that Castro initially approached her in his car with his daughter, whom DeJesus reportedly knew well. DeJesus said Castro later returned in his car alone and said he would drive her to his house so the girls could hang out.

At the time they were rescued, the women were living in separate rooms on the second floor of the house. Earlier in their captivity they had been chained in the basement of the house.

Berry's opportunity for freedom came when Castro went out for McDonald's on Monday but forgot to lock the "big inside door." An outer storm door, however, was still locked. Berry told police she was scared to try and open it because she feared Castro was testing her.

A law enforcement official explained to CNN that Castro allegedly tested the women frequently as a way to gain their obedience. The women told police that he would pretend to leave the house but would return quickly to see whether they'd moved. If they had, he would punish them.

Once Berry was free, police reportedly went inside and made their way to the second floor. The Plain Dealer notes that police found Knight in a bedroom on the second floor. She ran into an officer's arms, reportedly saying to him, "You saved me."

WKYC reports that the women recalled being allowed outside only twice in the decade they were held. Both times they moved through the backyard to the garage. Even then, they told police, they were forced to wear sunglasses and wigs.

Castro has been charged with four counts of kidnapping -- the additional count is for the child he is thought to have fathered with Berry -- and three counts of rape.


How Ariel Castro's Three Kidnapping Survivors Created New Lives

"He doesn't define who I am. I define who I am by everything I do in life."

Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight are true survivors.

During an interview with "20/20" airing Friday, the women open up about their lives after being kidnapped, raped, tortured and held captive by Ariel Castro in Cleveland, Ohio for nearly a decade each between 2002 and 2013.

"Everybody in life that goes through a tragedy, that's been in the dark for so long, needs to see the sunrise," Knight, 38, explained. "Just show the people that have harmed us that they don't control us anymore."

Castro pleaded guilty to 937 criminal counts of rape, kidnapping and aggravated murder. In August 2013, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus a thousand years. He killed himself in jail a month later.

"I chose to forgive [Castro], because I didn't want the emotional chain of that situation," Knight told "20/20". "I didn't want it to hold me back or control my life anymore, so I had to break free. I had to show him that he no longer has control over me. That he doesn't define who I am. I define who I am by everything I do in life."

And her life now consists of her "chosen family," including a new father and husband.

"I got my adopted dad, which his name is Jim [Taylor]. He's such a sweetheart. He's the one that showed me that men are not all the same," Knight explained. She said her husband, Miguel Rodriguez, is "the love of my life -- my other half. He showed me that life doesn't have to be horrible and you don't have to be alone."

"When I first came out of the house, I didn't even know what love was. What a tender touch was. All I knew was abuse," she recalled. She has since legally changed her name to Lily Rose Lee and started a nonprofit called Lily's Ray of Hope to help victims of child abuse, domestic violence and human trafficking.

Both Berry, 33, and DeJesus, 29, graduated from high school two years after their escape from Castro and wrote "Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland," with Washington Post journalists Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan in April 2015.

Berry works with a local news station, covering missing persons. "That's the most important thing that I'm doing right now. I just want to make the world a better place," she noted. She is also raising the daughter she had with Castro while in captivity. Jocelyn is now 13.

"Jocelyn is more special than I could even use words to describe. I always describe her as wise beyond her years," said Jocelyn's former teacher Erin Hennessey.

Tech Millionaire Found Dead After Kidnap From California Home

In 2018, DeJesus opened The Cleveland Family Center for Missing Children and Adults to "work with the families to help them navigate the media, to help to go to the police station," according to DeJesus.

The building is on the same street where Castro's house was located. The home was demolished months after his capture.

"I just want to change the neighborhood. I want to turn it to, like, positive and I want to give back," DeJesus said.


Watch the video: The FULL interview with Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus - BBC Newsnight (June 2022).


Comments:

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