US kidnap victims described their torment in diaries

US kidnap victims described their torment in diaries

CHICAGO, Illinois - Agence France-Presse
US kidnap victims described their torment in diaries

This frame grab combo from a July 2, 2013 video courtesy of Hennes Paynter Communications shows (R-L) Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight, and Gina de Jesus as they speak at the law offices of Jones Day in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP Photo

The three women who endured years of isolation, sexual assaults, beatings and starvation as prisoners of a Cleveland school bus driver documented their ordeal in diaries kept during their captivity in his house, prosecutors revealed July 31.

The entries spoke of rape, vicious beatings, of being chained to a wall and locked in a dark room, of “being treated like an animal,” of “anticipating the next session of abuse,” and of “his threats to kill,” prosecutors said. The women also wrote of “dreams of some day escaping and being reunited with family,” of “missing the lives they once enjoyed” and of their overwhelming desire for freedom. Their tormentor, Ariel Castro, last week agreed to plead guilty and spend the rest of his life in prison with no chance of parole in exchange for prosecutors taking the death penalty off the table.

 Michelle Knight was the first to be snatched off the street in 2002 when she was 20. Next came Amanda Berry, kidnapped the night before her 17th birthday in 2003. Then came Gina DeJesus who was just 14 and a friend of Castro’s daughter when she was abducted in 2004.

 The stunning case came to light after Berry managed to escape with her six-year-old daughter by calling out to a neighbor for help through a locked front door on May 6. For years, the women were kept chained by their ankles in locked rooms in Castro’s house in a working class neighborhood of Cleveland. They were rarely given access to the bathroom and instead had to relieve themselves in plastic buckets that were “emptied infrequently,” prosecutors said.

 Knight was impregnated four times during her 11 years of captivity. Castro terminated at least one of the pregnancies by starving her for days and then kicking and jumping on her stomach. Berry was allowed to carry a pregnancy to term, giving birth in a plastic kiddie pool on Christmas Day, 2006. The chains eventually came off once Castro had terrified his victims into “subservience,” allowing the women to occasionally share “faith and friendship,” the court documents said. But the locks remained and Castro would beat them whenever they tried to escape.

 Among his many threats and manipulations were dire stories of other victims who never made it home and his desire to hunt for “replacements.” Castro admitted that he “did not have an exit strategy” and claimed he “gave them all a chance to escape” by leaving the door to Berry’s room unlocked, prosecutors said.