10:57 AM EDT 05/29/2015
Originally posted 07/10/2013 08:00AM
When Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight reunited July 2 to record a video thanking supporters, they could not hold back their emotions.
"They cried and hugged. They have genuine happiness to be alive, to be out there, to just BE," Chris Kelly, the lawyer managing the Cleveland Courage Fund on behalf of the women, says in this week's PEOPLE.
In the video that posted Tuesday on YouTube, they thank family, friends and complete strangers for the outpouring of support they've received since escaping alleged kidnapper Ariel Castro after a decade in captivity. Castro has pleaded not guilty to 329 counts including 139 charges of rape.
Originally posted 07/09/2013 06:00AM
With smiles and determined confidence, the three Cleveland women who survived 10 years in captivity released a joint video Tuesday to warmly thank their supporters and show how far they've come in the two months since their dramatic and unexpected rescue.
"I want everyone to know how happy I am to be home with my family and my friends. It's been unbelievable," said Amanda Berry, now 27.
"I may have been through hell and back," said Michelle Knight, at 32 the oldest of the trio, "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."
Originally posted 06/12/2013 09:45AM
A man accused of holding Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight captive in his Cleveland home for about a decade pleaded not guilty Wednesday to hundreds of charges, including rape and kidnapping.
Ariel Castro is charged with kidnapping the three women and keeping them – sometimes restrained in chains – along with a 6-year-old girl he fathered with one of the women.
Castro, 52, didn't speak during the arraignment, which lasted less than a minute. He stood motionless, dressed in an orange prison outfit, and looked toward the floor as the plea was entered.
Originally posted 06/07/2013 06:45PM
A man accused of holding three women captive in his home for a decade has been indicted on 329 charges including kidnapping, rape and murder for allegedly causing an abortion.
A Cuyahoga County, Ohio, grand jury returned the indictment Friday against Ariel Castro, a former school bus driver fired last fall.
"Today’s indictments represent a first major step in the criminal justice process," said County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty. "Our investigation continues, and we will present our findings to the grand jury."
Originally posted 05/17/2013 01:00PM
Though each was young and vulnerable, all three of Ariel Castro's alleged kidnap victims came armed with strengths that would help them endure the years of horror ahead.
Gina DeJesus, 14, had the buoyancy and affection of a well-loved child who knew that home and family were worth fighting for. Strong-willed Amanda Berry, 16, was, to her family, “the glue that kept everyone calm," says childhood friend Lisha Jacome, who lived briefly in the Berry home.
A frequent babysitter for her sister's two daughters, Berry had child-care skills when she bore Castro's child in 2007. For that birth Castro designated his oldest captive, Michelle Knight, as midwife – and threatened to kill her if the baby died. The mother of a 2-year-old son when she was kidnapped at age 21, Knight not only had experienced childbirth, she had helped perform a delivery of the family dog's puppies as a kid.
Originally posted 05/15/2013 08:25AM
Ariel Castro, who is facing kidnapping and rape charges over the alleged abduction of three Cleveland women, will plead not guilty, his lawyers say.
"The initial portrayal of him is one of a quote 'monster,' and that is not the impression that I got," one of his two attorneys, Craig Weintraub, said in an interview that aired on Wednesday's Today show.
Added Castro's co-counsel, attorney Jaye Schlachet: "He is a human being, but what is offensive is that the women and the media want to demonize this man before they know the whole story, and I think it's unfair and not equitable."
Originally posted 05/13/2013 03:30PM
To those who have heard her story, Amanda Berry is the girl who disappeared at age 16 on April 21, 2003. She's the girl who was held captive with two others near downtown Cleveland for about 10 years until she miraculously escaped last week, proclaiming, "I'm free now."
But who was she before she vanished and was held captive in the home of alleged kidnapper Ariel Castro?
Her cousin, Tina Miller, tells PEOPLE about a girl with Eminem posters hanging in her bedroom and dreams of being a fashion designer. She's Mandy. She's hyper-organized, close to her nieces and she loved the movie 8 Mile and its star, Eminem.
Originally posted 05/13/2013 07:05AM
Ariel Castro's two brothers have disowned and distanced themselves from their sibling, whom they consider "a monster" who should rot in jail following his arrest last week on accusations of kidnapping and holding three young women captive in his grimy Cleveland home for up to a decade until their rescue last Monday.
"I had nothing to do with this, and I don't know how my brother got away with it for so many years," Pedro Castro, 54, in a joint interview with his brother Onil Castro, 50, conducted by CNN's Martin Savidge this weekend.
Initially believed to be potential suspects, Pedro and Onil were arrested last week and then released when authorities said the brothers had no involvement in the kidnappings. Their 52-year-old middle brother, remains in a Cleveland jail on $8 million bond, charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape.
Originally posted 05/12/2013 12:10PM
The voices of the Cleveland kidnapping survivors have finally been heard, as they reached out on Mother's Day through a spokesman for all three to recognize the efforts of law enforcement and the support of loved ones.
Amanda Berry said in a statement, "Thank you so much for everything you're doing and continue to do. I am so happy to be home with my family."
While Gina DeJesus said, "I'm so happy to be home. I want to thank everyone for all your prayers. I just want time now to be with my family."
And Michelle Knight, whose whereabout is currently unknown, said: "Thank you to everyone for your support and good wishes. I am healthy, happy and safe, and will reach out to family, friends and supporters in good time."
Originally posted 05/11/2013 04:45PM
Visiting his mother's house in working-class Cleveland on May 6 around 4:30 in the afternoon, a gregarious Ariel Castro greeted his family warmly.
"The first thing he said was 'Familia!' " his brother-in-law Juan Alicea, 63, tells PEOPLE.
After a meal of rice and beans and pork chops, "He and I were in the yard breaking up dirt in the garden with his two grandchildren," says Alicea. "He was talking about how he wanted to get it done because he didn't want to have to come back and do it tomorrow. Then he kissed his mom goodbye and said, 'I love you, Mom. The food was good.' Just like normal."
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