Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, who spent years kidnapped in Cleveland, Ohio by Ariel Castro, are speaking out about their incredible 2013 escape.
Amanda Berry, 33, Gina DeJesus, 29, and Michelle Knight, 38, are opening up about their horrifying experience six years after gaining freedom. The three women were abducted by Ariel Castro between the years of 2002 and 2004, and held in captivity until their headline-making May 2013 escape. Amanda, Gina and Michelle are speaking about the physical and psychological abuse they experienced — including torture, isolation and rape — in a shocking new interview with ABC’s 20/20.
“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,” Amanda detailed her first time being raped by Castro, who she knew as a elementary school bus driver and father of her classmate Arlene. “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.” Initially, Castro was able to abduct Amanda — just a day before her 17th birthday in April 2003 — by asking her if she needed a ride home. “I just started screaming and crying… ‘Somebody please help me,’ you know. And nobody, nobody came. I was so scared that I was going to die. I didn’t think that I was going to ever make it home,” Amanda said, describing that she was chained to a pole in the dark.
Castro taunted Amanda’s family by placing a call to their home line from her cell phone, which her sister Beth Serrano described. Though police were able to track the call to a specific block radius, they were unable to track her exact location. Eventually, Amanda became pregnant by Castro at just age 20. “I was terrified. How? I mean, I barely eat and I’m chained to a wall, and I have a bucket for a bathroom,” she described. She later gave birth to daughter Jocelyn on Christmas Day 2006, who also lived in captivity until she was 6.
Gina DeJesus — who was kidnapped at only 14 — described similar horrifying accounts. “He starts to touch me and stuff, and then I’m like, ‘What are you doing? You could go to jail,” she explained, as he teased that she may be able to go home. He first raped her on May 7, 2004, and also described attempting to scream for help while being chained in the basement. “He, would take my hair and like, put it in his mouth. … I don’t know why he did it but it was gross.” The women were also isolated from each other, and he would play them against each other by picking “favorites” when it came to basic necessities like food. “‘In the beginning I was his favorite, he would get me different restaurant foods and clothes,” she added.
Michelle Knight — who was the first of the three women lured in by Castro in Aug. 2002 — was grabbed on the street while she was walking home from work. She was just 21 at the time. Like the other women, she was held in barely livable conditions with dirty mattresses, little food, and buckets as toilets. Windows were boarded up, and meals were items like crackers and chips. In addition to the strict rules they had to live by, showers were also limited to just once a week.
Amanda further alluded to the strange rules the women had to live by, including leaving pans directly in the center of the stove. “We got to use just a tiny drop of dish soap to wash a full sink of dishes,” Berry said, also revealing the small “sliver” of soap they were allowed to shower with. Castro eventually began to change his attitude towards Amanda when their daughter noticed her mom was being held in chains. “This is his kid, you know. How do I feel about that? And she resembled him a lot, and I would look at her, and I just felt, like, she’s mine. She’s mine,” Amanda said of her child, who helped her get through the ordeal. “When I was playing with Jocelyn, Jocelyn made me forget everything.”
Eventually the women were able to plot their escape on May 6, 2013 after Amanda found her bedroom door to be unlocked. Her six-year-old daughter quickly realized that they were home alone, saying to her mom “I don’t find Daddy. Daddy’s nowhere around,” Amanda explained, as they made a move to the front door. Stopped by an alarm and a padlocked shut storm door, a neighbor then saw her struggling and helped them escape. Police were later shocked to find the women who were missing for years. Castro, who pleaded guilty to 937 counts of rape and kidnapping, was charged to 1000 years in prison — but was found dead in his prison cell after suicide on Sept. 3, 2013.