Ariel Castro kidnapped three women from 2002 to 2004, holding them captive for nearly a decade. It was Amanda Berry’s one act of bravery that ended their torment. But what happened to Castro’s victims and where are they now?
The Ariel Castro kidnappings had some of the widest media coverage seen to date. After a ten-year exhaustive hunt for three missing women, they were found alive thanks to the quick thinking and determination of one of the victims.
When Amanda Berry made her fateful escape on May 6, 2013, she saved the lives of four people and attracted the attention of millions around the globe.
This case is a pillar of hope in the true crime community, letting families and fans of the genre keep their faith alive while following other missing people’s investigations.
But, what exactly took place in their decade of captivity, who are the women who were held captive, and what were the days like that led up to their escape and rescue?
The Kidnappings Of Ariel Castro
Castro was no stranger to horrific decisions, he worked as a bus driver for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District before his termination for ‘bad judgment.’ The citations included making illegal U-turns with children on the bus and leaving a child alone while he went home to nap. The latter allegation of child abuse and neglect was later “unsubstantiated.”
Castro had two daughters, Emily and Arlene, who he allegedly used to search for his victims. Both Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus went to school with his daughters, allowing him credibility with the women that he did not deserve.Ariel Castro was able to kidnap his victims by offering them a ride home, but rather than driving them to their respective homes, he took them to 2207 Seymour Avenue, commonly known as the “House of Horrors.”
Over the course of the next nine years, Castro would physically and sexually abuse Berry, Knight, and DeJesus. The three women were experiencing a living nightmare, trapped in their personal hell. Their bond as victims and as women was the only thing holding them together.
While Castro ended up impregnating Knight multiple times, he would always terminate the pregnancy. When Berry discovered she was pregnant, the women were shocked that Castro wanted to keep the child.
On Christmas day of 2006, Berry gave birth to her daughter in an inflatable pool with the help of Knight. It was this child that spearheaded the hunt for an escape and fuelled their desire to live.
The Survivors of Ariel Castro
Michelle Knight was the first victim abducted. She disappeared on August 23, 2002, at the age of 21. On the day of her disappearance, Knight had a scheduled court appearance for a child custody case involving her son Joey. While Knight arguably received the worst treatment of the three women, she was also severely neglected by the system.
Because she was an adult, the authorities felt that she had run away voluntarily and therefore did not spend time or resources on her search and rescue. Knight suffered a minimum of five pregnancies and terminations as well as horrific physical abuse.
Amanda Berry disappeared on April 21, 2003, the day before her 17th birthday. She had called her sister around 8:00 PM to tell her that she was getting a ride home from her fast-food job but she never returned home. It wasn’t long until Castro impregnated Berry and insisted she have the child.
Once the child was born, Berry’s will to survive heightened, she was determined to get herself and her daughter out of captivity. It was the love for her daughter and her extreme bravery that ended up saving four innocent lives.
Gina DeJesus was the last of Castro’s victims. She went missing on April 2, 2004, at only 14 years old. She was returning home from Middle School when Castro offered her a lift home. Trusting Castro as the father of her two school friends, DeJesus had no problem accepting the ride.
There was a lot of frustration following her disappearance, no Amber Alert was issued and police wrote her off as a runaway. DeJesus’s mother and cousin weren’t willing to give up, spending years searching for the missing child. The investigation garnered attention when DeJesus was featured in an America’s Most Wanted segment. Police kept the investigation open and offered a $25,000 reward for any information.
Amanda Berry’s Act Of Bravery Led To Their Rescue
On May 6, 2013, Berry managed to escape Castro’s home and make contact with some of his neighbors, who in turn called authorities. Castro had failed to lock the inside door, although the storm door was bolted shut. Berry screamed for her life after seeing neighbors Charles Ramsey and Angel Cordero in the distance. They quickly came to the rescue, kicking a hole through the storm door where Berry crawled out holding her then six-year-old daughter.
Berry was taken to a nearby home where they called 911. The infamous call has been heard by millions. “Help me. I’m Amanda Berry.” She said, “I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for ten years. And I’m here. I’m free now!” Responding police officers entered Castro’s house where they discovered Knight and DeJesus. All three women and Berry’s child were taken to the hospital and reunited with their families soon after.
Where Are Ariel Castro’s Victims Now?
Castro was arrested that same day. He was initially charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape. Following his first court appearance, additional charges were added including aggravated murder for the intentional induction of miscarriages, child endangerment, possession of criminal tools, and gross sexual imposition.
Castro was sentenced to consecutive life terms in prison plus 1,000 years without the possibility of parole. One month into his life sentence, Castro was found hanging from a bed sheet in his detention cell. He was 53 at the time of his death.
Following Castro’s sentence, the three women had to learn to heal from the trauma they experienced in the last decade of their lives. Since being rescued, Knight had legally changed her name. She also disclosed to the public that her son was adopted by his foster parents while she was held by Castro. She later married in 2016.
Berry and DeJesus were finally able to finish high school and have gone on to work closely with families of missing children. DeJesus volunteers for the Amber Alert committee and uses her story to help other missing and abducted children, in 2021 she spoke at CrimeCon to a standing ovation.
In 2017, Berry joined WJW, a Fox affiliate, where she would host short recurring segments for missing person cases. By 2020 she partnered with US marshals for Operation Safety Net, an organization that has located 35 missing and abducted children.
The house where Castro held all three women captive was demolished on August 7, 2013, ending any physical reminder of what had happened to them. At the demolition, Knight handed out yellow balloons representing missing children around the world. The balloons were released before the first swing of the crane took the house down.
This is a tale of survival, a tale of tenacity, and of justice. These three women had their young lives stolen from them, subjected to some of the most heinous crimes that a person can endure. Their upstanding character and strength shine through with their ability to wake up every morning and choose to live their lives unapologetically.