By now you’ve all heard the story of the three teens, now women, who were kidnapped in the early 2000’s in Cleveland and held captive for over a decade.
And we know that the girls are now safely home with their families, away from the “house of horrors” that they were chained to for years while being abused and sexually assaulted.
But little has been said about who these victims actually are.
Who are these three women, who will now be thrust into the media spotlight as we wait, anxiously, to hear their stories?
We’ve gathered up all that we know about Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight to give you an idea of who these young girls were before they were abducted, and, unfortunately, what they must now deal with as they come to terms with their new lives.
Take a look:
Amanda Berry, 27
The first face and most recognizable name in the Cleveland kidnappings is 27-year-old Amanda Berry.
It was she who first scrambled to get out of the fortified front door of the “House of Horrors,” also known as the Castro residence, where Ariel, Onil and Pedro held three victims captive for over 10 years. Berry, screaming for help, caught the attention of Charles Ramsey, who pushed through the bottom of the screen door to get her and her daughter, 6-year-old Jocelyn, to safety.
But Berry’s ordeal started 10 years earlier, when she was abducted just a day shy of her 17th birthday. In April of 2003, Berry went missing after being last seen leaving her job at a Cleveland-area Burger King. She called her sister to tell her she was getting a ride home, but never arrived.
Eventually, she was reported missing. In the 10 years since her disappearance, the FBI listed 10 postings about Berry and offered a reward up to $25,000 for information on her whereabouts.
Her father, John Berry, never let go of the hope that his daughter was alive. Berry said he knew deep down in his heart that his daughter’s “rough and tough” attitude would keep her alive. That’s why he spent years putting posters up in every store window, knowing he would one day get that call.
His former wife, Louwana Miller, was said to work hard to bring their daughter home, pleading with authorities to follow every tip. Unfortunately, Miller died in 2006 at the age of 43 after being hospitalized with pancreatitis. Berry suspects she died of a broken heart.
But on May 6, her family, got the call of a lifetime. Amanda Berry was found. And she was alive.
However, Berry’s story doesn’t end there. Upon rescue it was discovered that she had given birth to a little girl, who goes by Jocelyn, on Christmas day six years ago. Sources say that Berry gave birth in the house, more specifically the basement, in a small inflatable pool. Her father is believed to be one of the Castro brothers.
Jocelyn was one of many pregnancies, according to police. It is unclear how many times Berry had been pregnant, though first reports confirm that it was more than once. Upon searching the grounds for the bodies of the babies, police came up empty handed. However, it was confirmed that Berry suffered miscarriages due to malnourishment.
On May 8, Berry and her daughter finally returned to her sister Beth’s house where a crowd of reporters and neighborhood residents gathered to welcome her home. Sadly, her mother, who had died years earlier, was not there to witness the much anticipated reunion.
Berry is expected to make a statement later this week.
Georgina “Gina” DeJesus, 23
The most bizarre twist in the Cleveland kidnappings is the link between now 23-year-old Gina DeJesus and her captor, Ariel Castro.
DeJesus was a bubbly 14-year-old. Her family described her as a young girl who loved to dance, crack jokes and be with family. But that all changed on April 2, 2004, when DeJesus never made it home.
She was said to have been last seen at a pay phone around 3:00 p.m. as she was walking home from school. The girl and a friend, who some sources say is Castro’s daughter, were phoning their mothers to ask if they could have a sleepover at DeJesus’ house. The answer was no, and DeJesus never returned to the house.
Reported missing, the FBI mentioned DeJesus in eight documents on their website and offered an unspecified amount of money leading to her recovery.
But on May 6, a phone call to her family telling them she was alive and was almost “like a dream” to her brother, Ricardo DeJesus.
But new details about why DeJesus was captured are arguably the most gripping details of this case. The son of Ariel, Anthony Castro, said that it’s conceivable that his father abducted the youngest of the victims because she was a close friend of his daughter.
It was Arlene Castro who was last seen with DeJesus when they were calling their mothers at the pay phone. Anthony said it was believable that Gina got into Ariel Castro’s car instead of walking home because she recognized him as the father of her best friend.
“That’s one of the thoughts that went through my head because Gina disappeared in broad daylight on a very busy street. It’s probably the busiest street on the West side of Cleveland,” said Anthony Castro.
Details about why DeJesus was captured and held for nine years against her will are sure to emerge as the week carries on, but in the meantime, she’s at home, resting and in “good spirits.”
Michelle Knight, 32
The first victim to have disappeared, but the one who has managed to stay out of the invasive spotlight that the girls are now enduring, is 32-year-old Michelle Knight.
At the age of 21, Knight was reported missing to the Cleveland Police Department. However, the family of the woman thought she ran away.
According to CNN, Knight’s grandmother, Deborah Knight, told The Plain Dealer on Monday that the family had concluded that Michelle had left of her own accord because she was angry that she had lost custody of her son. That conclusion was supported by police and social workers, she told the newspaper.
That ordeal started when Michelle dropped out of school and became involved with an abusive man who injured the toddler, resulting in her losing the boy.
Because Knight was thought to have run away, the FBI makes no mention of her, or offered no reward for her return. But the woman’s mother, Barbara Knight, started to tell police that her daughter wouldn’t have just broken all contact voluntarily.
The police, however, never intervened.
In 2012, Barbara moved to Naples, Florida. But her new location didn’t stop her from returning to Cleveland’s West Side often to search for her daughter. She told reporters that her biggest concern was finding Michelle’s body, as she believed she might be dead.
She also told reporters why she thought the police didn’t take Michelle’s disappearance seriously.
“Certain people said she didn’t want nothing to do with me but still in my heart I thought no, because I knew my Michelle,’ she said. ‘They figured she just left because of the baby and everything.”
On hearing that Michelle was rescued from the Castro’s home, and had been held captive and abused for over a decade, Barbara was elated. But the pair, estranged before Michelle’s disappearance, have yet to reunite. Barbara returned to Cleveland this week in hopes of seeing her daughter and introducing her to her half-sister, 10-year-old Katie.
“I don’t want her to think that I forgot about her… Hopefully whatever happened between us, if something did – I hope it heals because I really want to take her back to Florida with me.”
It is now being reported that Michelle currently suffers from hearing loss and facial bone damage after years of vicious beatings to her head while in captivity.