Ohio kidnap victims speak out at sentencing

Brief video statements released


The three women held captive in a Cleveland house for a decade before being discovered and released this year spoke publicly for the first time in brief video statements released on Monday night.

In the video, the women – Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight – thanked the people who have provided support since their escape in May, including those who have donated to a fund that has raised more than $1 million.

Ms Knight, who was kidnapped in August 2002 at the age of 21, said the “love, support and donations” of well-wishers had helped her “build a brand new life”.

She said she refused to be consumed by hatred. “I may have been through hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face and with my head held high,” she said, looking directly into the camera. “I will not let the situation define who I am. I will define the situation.”

DeJesus, who appeared with her parents, Felix DeJesus and Nancy Ruiz, thanked people for their kindness since her release. She was abducted in April 2004, when she was 14, as she walked home from school.

And Ms Berry, who had a child while in captivity, said her ability to remain out of the public spotlight had aided in her continuing recovery.

“I’m getting stronger each day, and having my privacy has helped immensely,” she said.

“I want everyone to know how happy I am to be home with my family and my friends.” Ms Berry was kidnapped in April 2003, when she was 16, while coming home from her job at a Burger King. The women were freed in May after a neighbour heard cries for help from the home of Ariel Castro, who lived in a residential neighbourhood in west Cleveland. Castro (52), a former school bus driver, has been indicted on more than 300 charges, including kidnapping, rape and aggravated murder for forcibly causing one of the women to abort a foetus after he had impregnated her.

Last week, an Ohio judge ruled that Castro was competent to stand trial. Jury selection in the case could begin as early as next month. – (New York Times)