If it weren’t for Amanda Berry, one of the three women Ariel Castro held captive in his Cleveland home for years, none of his victims would be free. Amanda’s daring escape helped rescue her fellow survivors, and she’s now telling her tale.
“I’ve been kidnapped and been missing to 10 years,” Amanda Berry, now 33, told the 911 operator when she made that fateful call on May 6, 2013. The call led to the rescue of Amanda’s fellow prisoners — Dina DeJesus, now 29, and Michelle Knight, now 38, — who had been held captive by Ariel Castro for years in his Cleveland home. For years, these three women endured unthinkable torture at the hands of Ariel, including sexual assault, starvation, and physical abuse. The survivors have shared their stories of survival with 20/20, and it’s set to air Friday, Jan. 3, at 9 pm ET on ABC. Before the episode revisits the horrors committed by that monster, here’s what you need to know about Amanda.
1. She was kidnapped a day before her 17th birthday. “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?” Amanda told 20/20. What if, indeed. As she walking home from work, a vehicle started to follow Amanda. The man inside – Ariel Castro, an elementary school bus driver and one of Amanda’s friends/classmates from middle school – asked if she needed a ride. “He’s like, ‘Well [his daughter] at my house. Would you like to go see her?’”
As they entered the house on Seymour Avenue, Amanda learned too late that she had been kidnapped. After going upstairs, she saw a mystery woman sleeping in a bedroom in front of a television. This was Michelle Knight, a woman Ariel had abducted a year before. “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 told 20/20. “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.”
2. Amanda gave birth while in captivity. “I just started screaming and crying… ‘Somebody, please help me,’ you know. And nobody, nobody came,” said Amanda. “I was so scared that I was going to die. I didn’t think that I was going to ever make it home.” From there, years of sexual abuse followed. She kept track of the number of times he raped her, and in 2006, three years after she was kidnapped, she realized she might be pregnant.
“I was terrified. How? I mean, I barely eat,” Amanda said, “and I’m chained to a wall, and I have a bucket for a bathroom.” She gave birth to her daughter Jocelyn on Christmas in 2006. “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.”
3. She managed to escape with her daughter. On May 6, 2013, after more nine years in captivity, the women escaped. That day, Amanda said she found her bedroom door unlocked without Ariel around. She managed to get herself outside, thanks to the help of a neighbor named Charles Ramsey. After prying the front storm door open, Amanda and her daughter fled the scene. They found a neighbor with a phone and called 911.
4. Her captor is dead. Michelle and Dina were freed by police, and Ariel Castro was arrested. In 2013, he was sentenced to life plus 1,000 years in prison after pleading guilty to 937 counts of kidnapping and rape. On Sept. 3, 2013, one month into his prison sentence, he was found hanging from a bedsheet in his cell. He was 53 at the time of his death. The house where he held these three women captive has been demolished. It’s now a garden
5. Amanda now helps others. Since being freed in 2013, Amanda and Gina wrote a memoir together, Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland. It was released in April 2015. Amanda now works with a local news station covering missing children and adults in the Cleveland area. Her daughter, now 13, is thriving.