This morning, Ariel Castro was officially sentenced to life without parole and 1,000 years in prison. While many may assume the sentence draws this horrifying case to a close, even more new details of the horrifying lives those girls lived for nearly a decade in his Cleveland home surfaced in the courtroom.
According to NBC’s coverage of the sentencing, it was revealed that Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight all kept diaries while they were in captivity. A general statement of just a sampling of the astonishing details written by the women were revealed in a sentencing memo written by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty:
The entries speak of forced sexual conduct, of being locked in a dark room, of anticipating the next session of abuse, of the dreams of someday escaping and being reunited with family, of being chained to a wall, of being held like a prisoner of war, of missing the lives they once enjoyed, of emotional abuse, of his threats to kill, of being treated like an animal, of continuous abuse, and of desiring freedom.
According to ABC’s live updates of the court proceedings, Castro was able to kidnap all three women because they knew his children, and therefore felt they could trust him. With Michelle, the first to be kidnapped, Castro offered her a puppy for her 2-year-old son who had been taken from her, and so when she agreed to look at puppies, he drove her to his home and invited her inside. She saw a dog, but no puppies, and when she became nervous and tried to leave, Castro forced her into the basement, restrained her with chains and plastic ties, and raped her.
Gina and Amanda were both lured in a similar way, using the names of Castro’s children to create a sense of familiarity and safety. Amanda was lured by the thought of seeing Castro’s daughter, whom she was friends with, and Gina was enticed into Castro’s car with a simple ride home after school. He claimed he needed to stop at his house along the way to get money, but when she stepped inside his house that day, she wouldn’t step out again for nine years.
In court today, Michelle was the only victim to make a public appearance and read a personal statement. According to Jezebel, She stood ahead of the table at which her captor and abuser sat, not looking at him as she read her tearful and very personal words:
I spent 11 years in hell, and now your hell is just beginning. I will overcome all of this that happened. You will face hell for eternity. From this moment on, I won't let you define me or affect who I am. You will live. I will live on. You will die a little everyday…The death penalty would be so much easier. You don't deserve that. You deserve to spend life in prison.
For these three brave women, we are happy that the worst of their days are behind them. Michelle showed incredible strength to be able to speak in court at the sentencing of Ariel Castro, and even while Amanda and Gina chose not to attend, all three girls did make a thank you video recently to show the public that they’re strong and they’re ready to move forward.
We extend our thoughts and very best wishes to Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight for their continued growth, strength, and years of happiness ahead of them.