Story Summary

3 Ohio women missing for decade are rescued

Missing1

Three Cleveland women, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight, all disappeared in separate cases between 2002 and 2004.

They were missing for about a decade and found together in a home yesterday.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson released a statement saying that he was thankful that the women were found alive and the investigation is ongoing.

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Michelle Knight kidnap victim

(Image/Today)

(CNN) — Six months after she was freed from the “house of horrors” where Ariel Castro held her captive for 11 years, Cleveland kidnapping victim Michelle Knight is speaking out.

In an exclusive interview with Dr. Phil McGraw scheduled to air Tuesday and Wednesday, Knight describes a moment when Castro trapped her in a room and tied her up with an orange extension cord.

“I was tied up like a fish,” she says, “an ornament on the wall.”

An excerpt released by the “Dr. Phil” syndicated talk show Monday shows Knight sitting cross-legged on a couch and drawing a U-shape in the air with one finger as she describes how Castro hung her by her feet, neck and arms.

Knight also says Castro taped her mouth shut with duct tape, according to another excerpt posted on the show’s YouTube channel. And she tells McGraw she once picked a lock to try to escape, drawing an ominous warning from Castro: “Now you’re gonna be punished.”

Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus were freed from Castro’s Cleveland home in May, drawing national attention to the horrific case.

The dramatic rescue came after neighbors heard Berry’s cries and broke down a door.

CLEVELAND VICTIMS

The three women who were kidnapped by a Cleveland home have come forward to give their first public statements since being rescued back in May.

In August, Castro was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years after he pleaded guilty to 937 counts, including murder and kidnapping. He committed suicide in his prison cell in September.

Knight, 32, was 21 years old when she was reported missing in 2002.

Before the women’s rescue, Knight’s disappearance generated less publicity and attention than the kidnappings of Berry and DeJesus, and a level of mystery still surrounds her case.

But since their rescue, Knight hasn’t shied away from speaking out.

“After 11 years, I am finally being heard, and it’s liberating,” she said in a powerful statement at Castro’s sentencing describing the abuse she endured.

“You took 11 years of my life away, and I have got it back. I spent 11 years in hell, and now your hell is just beginning,” she told Castro. “I will overcome all this that happened, but you will face hell for eternity.”

When crews demolished the 1,400-square-foot house where Castro held them captive, Knight was there, handing out yellow balloons to onlookers.

Ariel Castro

An internal investigation revealed Ariel Castro may have died of autoerotic asphyxiation in prison.

She said she was at the demolition site in part to remind relatives of abducted children that all is not necessarily lost.

“I want the people out there to know — including the mothers — that they can have strength, they can have hope, and their child will come back,” she said.

Since their release, accounts have depicted Knight as someone who cared for the other victims during their captivity while also enduring great suffering herself.

A family friend of one of the victims said this year that Castro used Knight as his main “punching bag.”

The friend said Castro hit Knight with a variety of objects, including hand weights. She has suffered vision loss, joint and muscle damage, and other problems from her time in captivity.

According to an initial incident report obtained by CNN, Knight said she became pregnant at least five times while in Castro’s home.

When that happened, she told investigators, Castro “starved her for at least two weeks, then he repeatedly punched her in the stomach until she miscarried.”

Knight said Castro ordered her to deliver Berry’s child, according to a police source familiar with the investigation.

“What’s most incredible here is that this girl who knows nothing about childbirth was able to deliver a baby that is now a healthy 6-year-old,” a police source said.

Ariel Castro

(CNN) — Two Ohio correctional officers have been placed on leave as investigators look into the suicide of Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction told CNN.

Caleb Ackley and Ryan Murphy, both hired in 2007, were on duty in the prison unit where Castro was housed the night he hanged himself.

Castro, 52, was found hanged with a bed sheet September 3, coroner Dr. Jan Gorniak said. He was being held at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient.

Prison medical staff tried to revive him.

Castro pleaded guilty last month to 937 counts, including the kidnapping of Michelle Knight, Georgina DeJesus and Amanda Berry. He was sentenced to life plus 1,000 years.

NEW YORK (PIX11) -  Another infamous kidnapper and sexual predator died in prison this week.  This time, it was 64 year old, John Esposito, who pleaded guilty on Long Island twenty years ago to kidnapping nine-year old Katie Beers—and then holding her captive in an underground bunker for 17 days.

Esposito was discovered “unresponsive” in his cell at the upstate Sing Sing prison on Wednesday, just hours after he attended his fifth parole hearing.  He had already been turned down for parole four, previous times, after receiving a sentence of 15 years to life for kidnapping Beers.  In 1993, he had finally confessed to the crime, after cops swarmed his Bay Shore home for days, looking for the missing child.  Beers could see the detectives on “closed circuit” TV, from her cramped prison—seven feet below Esposito’s garage.  But the cops couldn’t hear her screams, because the coffin-like room was soundproofed.

Esposito’s death came a day after sadistic kidnapper, Ariel Castro, hung himself with a bedsheet in his Ohio prison cell.  Castro pleaded guilty just over a month ago to 937 counts of kidnapping and rape, after abducting three, different girls off Cleveland streets between 2002 and 2004.  One of the young women, Amanda Berry, escaped this past May and the other captives were discovered within minutes.  They’d been held a decade or more in Castro’s house of horrors, beaten and chained in deplorable conditions.

“Within 24 hours, we have lost two monsters,” Katie Beers—now 30—wrote on her Facebook page.  “Ariel Castro, who committed suicide, and John Esposito, who has died of unknown reasons.”

Beers wrote a book earlier this year and said the kidnapping actually saved her life, because she’d been neglected and abused the first, ten years of her life.  Her working mother often left her in the care of a troubled godmother and the woman’s husband, Sal.  Sal Inghelleri was convicted of sexually abusing Katie Beers and died in prison in 2009.

Beers, who graduated college and is married in Pennsylvania with two children, told PIX 11 back in January that she’d forgiven Esposito for what he’d done, “because John showed remorse and apologized.”

But when Esposito appeared before the parole board in previous years, he denied molesting Beers, and the board had always turned him down.

Beers wrote on Facebook: “I have to say I am not saddened by John’s passing.  I’m saddened for his remaining family.  They lost John a long time ago, but now they’ve lost him forever.”

The way Ariel Castro tells it he lived in a harmonious home with three women and a daughter a happy existence — albeit one riddled with sex addiction — and it was absent of the any of the horror and torture that brought Castro’s name into the headlines.

“Most of the sex that went on in the house – practically all of it, was consensual. These allegations about being forceful, that is totally wrong,” Castro told the judge.

But as Castro sat in court Thursday, casually moving his shackled feet, one of his victims told a different story.

“My name is Michelle Knight, and I’d like to tell you what eleven years was like for me”, said Castro.

Michele Knight offered a bone-chilling, firsthand account the tortuous life she, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus lived for more than a decade – at the hands of their captor – Castro.

“Days never got shorter. Days turned into nights. Nights turned into days. Years turned into eternity,” said Knight.

Castro’s sentence: life plus a thousand years. It guarantees Ariel Castro will die in prison.  The only question is when.  Given the brutality of his confessed crimes and the form of justice that often exists behind bars, it may be sooner rather than later.

“Nobody should ever have to go through what I had to go through – or anybody else, not even my worst enemy”, said Knight.

Knight was kidnapped first and held the longest, along with Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus.

“Gina was my teammate. She never let me fall – I never let her fall. She nursed me back to health when I was dying from his abuse,” said Knight.

Photos taken from inside the prison Castro created for the three women only hint at the horror his three victims lived through over a decade.

Dr. Frank Ochberg, a pioneer in analyzing post-traumatic stress disorder is cautiously optimistic about their chance at a normal life.

“The damage that was done does not go away. They have life sentences,” said Dr. Ochberg.

“I think they will – with love and support, and community – with what they bring to the table, they have a good chance to have a good life.  But that doesn’t mean that they will ever be free of the damage that was done,” added Dr. Ochberg.

Ariel Castro also spoke in court.

“These people are trying to paint me as a monster, and I’m not a monster. I’m sick,” said Castro.

It’s clear the man who lured all three of his victims off the same Cleveland street and kept them alive for the sole purpose of physically, sexually, and emotionally abusing them — is either in denial, mentally ill or both.

“I am truly sorry for what happened. To this day, I’m trying to answer my own questions. I don’t know why . . . I had a job, I had a home, I had vehicles, I had my musical talent. I had everything going on for me your honor. I have good history of working, with providing. I just hope they can find it in their hearts to forgive me,” said Castro.

“I know I am 100% wrong. I am saying that they’re trying to say that I am violent person. I am not a violent person. I drove a school bus. I had a family. I do have value for human life,” added Castro.

Judge Michael Russo offered a simple explanation for sentencing Castro to consecutive terms.

“Means to me that you still pose a great danger to the community if you would receive anything other than a consecutive sentence.  You don’t deserve to be out in our community. You’re too dangerous,” said Judge Russo.

Despite Castro’s attempt to appear sincere, no one in the courtroom seemed to be fooled.

Not even his own lawyer, Craig Weintraub.

“I think that based on what we have observed in this case, he certainly fits the definition of a sociopath and the judge also indicated that he has a narcissistic personality, which seems to as well be appropriate,” said Weintraub.

ariel castro

CNN – Ariel Castro agreed Friday in an Ohio courtroom to a plea deal in one of the most sensational kidnapping cases in recent memory. The deal, reached with prosecutors, would let him avoid the possibility of a death sentence and spare his alleged victims from having to testify at a trial.

The plea deal recommends that he be sentenced to life in prison without parole — that he never get a parole hearing. It would also mean that a trial Castro was facing on August 5 would not happen and he would not face the possibility of being sentenced to death. Judge Michael J. Russo went over the deal with Castro, and told him that he would be labeled as a sexual predator.

Castro replied that he understood. At one point, he interjected that he was “also a victim as a child” to which Russo responded that he could make whatever statement he wanted during the sentencing hearing. Russo also said that victims would be notified of the hearing and also would then have a chance to say what they liked.

Russo went through charges Castro faced and asked him how he pleaded.

Over and over, Castro replied: “Guilty.”

CLEVELAND VICTIMS

The three women who were kidnapped by a Cleveland home have come forward to give their first public statements since being rescued back in May.

At another moment in the hearing, which lasted well over an hour, the judge asked Castro how good his English is.

Castro replied that he is good at spelling and reading but his comprehension is bad because “my addiction to pornography and my sexual problem has really taken a toll on my mind.”

An attorney for three women had told CNN that they were hoping for a plea deal because they did not want to take the stand at Castro’s trial.

Castro’s defense attorneys had previously said they wanted a deal that would take capital punishment out of the equation.

Castro was charged with 977 counts, including aggravated murder on suspicion of ending the pregnancy of one of his alleged captives. Under the deal, he agreed to plead guilty to 937 counts.

Russo told Castro that the deal would mean he would go to prison for life, plus at least 1,000 years.

Earlier this month, the former bus driver had pleaded not guilty to the 977 charges. He was being held on $8 million bail.

At the close of Friday’s hearing, Russo remanded Castro back into custody, and set a sentencing date for August 1.

With help, women freed

Castro abducted Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Georgina “Gina” DeJesus separately in a two-year period starting in 2002, according to authorities.

The women and Berry’s 6-year-old daughter — DNA tests have confirmed that Castro is the child’s father — were freed in May after one of the women shouted for help while Castro was away from his 1,400-square-foot home.

The cries for help were heard by neighbor Charles Ramsey, who was sitting down to eat.

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

Finally free, Berry pleaded for a phone.

“Help me, I am Amanda Berry,” she told police in a frantic 911 call from a neighbor’s house. “I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years. And I’m here, I’m free now.”

Under the plea deal, the house where the women were confined will be demolished, Russo said.

Berry was last seen after finishing her shift at a Burger King in Cleveland in 2003. It was the eve of her 17th birthday.

DeJesus disappeared nearly a year later, in April 2004. She was 14.

Knight vanished in 2002, at age 21, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper.

In early July, Berry, DeJesus and Knight released a YouTube video offering their thanks to all those who have helped them since they were freed.

“I want to thank everyone who has helped me and my family through this entire ordeal. Everyone who has been there to support us has been a blessing,” Berry said in the video. “I’m getting stronger each day.”

ariel castro

(CNN) — A grand jury has issued a fresh indictment charging Ariel Castro with 977 counts relating to allegations that he held three women captive for about a decade in his Cleveland home, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office said Friday.

The new indictment — which adds 648 counts to the 329 on which he was indicted last month — encompasses all the years of the women’s captivity, whereas the previous indictment covered only the first four and a half years, the prosecutor’s office said.

Authorities said Castro abducted Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Georgina “Gina” DeJesus separately in a two-year period starting in 2002.

The women, as well as Berry’s 6-year-old daughter, who authorities say was fathered by Castro, were freed in May after one of the women shouted for help while Castro was away from his 1,400-square-foot home.

Among the charges are two counts of aggravated murder, in which Castro is accused of intentionally causing the termination of a pregnancy.

Castro also faces 512 counts of kidnapping, 446 counts of rape, seven counts of gross sexual imposition, six counts of felonious assault, three counts of child endangerment and one count of possessing criminal tools.

He will be arraigned July 17.

(CNN) – For the first time since their rescue two months ago, the world is hearing directly from the three women who were held captive in Cleveland for a decade.

Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight released a video on YouTube, offering their thanks to all those who have supported them since they were freed from captivity.

“I want to thank everyone who has helped me and my family through this entire ordeal, everyone who has been there to support us. It has been a blessing to have such an outpouring of love and kindness,” Amanda Berry says in the video. Berry was abducted at age 16 in April 2003 and has a 6-year-old daughter, who was born during her captivity.

Gina DeJesus was 14 when she was kidnapped in 2004. She says to the public, “thank you for the support.”

CLEVELAND VICTIMS

The three women who were kidnapped by a Cleveland home have come forward to give their first public statements since being rescued back in May.

Michelle Knight, who was abducted at age 21 in August 2002 says, “thank you everyone for your love, support, and donations which helped me build a brand new life. I want everyone to know I’m doing just fine. I may have been to hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face and with my head held high and my feet firmly on the ground.”

The Courage Fund, which was established to help the three victims, has raised more than $1 million dollars.

The three women were held captive by Ariel Castro and were beaten, raped and starved for a decade, according to prosecutors.

They were freed in May after one shouted for help while Castro was gone from the house.

The women don’t plan to make any additional public statements.

“I’m getting stronger each day and having my privacy has helped immensely. I ask that everyone continue to respect our privacy and give us time to have a normal life,” Berry says.

Castro is accused of holding the women in his Cleveland home. He faces 329 counts, including one count of aggravated murder for allegedly causing the unlawful termination of a pregnancy. His next pretrial hearing is scheduled for July 24th.

ariel castro

(CNN) — An Ohio man accused of murder, rape and holding three women in a Cleveland house against their will pleaded not guilty Wednesday. His attorney said it was an effort to stave off a death penalty and an arduous trial.

Ariel Castro, 52, wore an orange jumpsuit, kept his head bowed and didn’t speak as attorneys entered the plea on their client’s behalf at his brief arraignment in a Cleveland courtroom. He was indicted last week on 329 counts.

Defense attorney Craig Weintraub, speaking to reporters after the arraignment, said some charges in the indictment “cannot be disputed.” But the plea — targeting the murder accusations and the specter of a death penalty — signals an effort to forge a “resolution” and avoid a trial, he said.

Two counts accuse Castro of aggravated murder for purposely causing the unlawful termination of pregnancies. Police say one of the young women he’s accused of holding was impregnated five times by Castro, and another bore a child fathered by him.

Weintraub told reporters that the plea “requires the prosecutor to continue to evaluate their case and determine whether medical and forensic evidence can actually support an aggravated murder conviction for the death of a fetus and whether the death penalty is warranted.”

There is new chilling video of Ariel Castro’s house of horrors.

He’s the man accused of holding three women captive for over a decade in Cleveland.

The backyard to the home is filled with trash and old toys that were used by the daughter he fathered with one of his captives.

There are also spools of barbed wire and rusty chains that were likely used to keep the three young women captive inside his home for about a decade.

In the basement there is barbed wire on windows and a dog chain tied to a wooden post in the middle of the room.

The women were freed by a neighbor.

(CNN)- For the first time, we’re hearing from some of the officers who helped rescue the three kidnapped women in Ohio.

Cleveland policed released the tape this week of their interviews.

It shows the officers getting pretty emotional recalling the ordeal.

One even said the girls begged them not to leave at one point and another described the moment they knew who they had found.

“And then within a few seconds I see another girl come out of the bedroom. I just look at her. You could immediately tell who it is, just thinner. And, again, I just needed confirmation. And I asked her, ‘What’s your name?’ She said my name is Georgina DeJesus. It was very overwhelming. I mean, it took everything to hold myself together. You know, I have Michelle in my arms and then you’ve got Gina coming out”

Ariel Castro was arrested in the girls’ kidnapping.

His attorney said he plans to plead not guilty

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