Where The Victims Of The Ariel Castro Kidnappings Are Today

On May 6, 2013, a 911 operator in Cleveland answered a shocking phone call. The young woman on the line, Amanda Berry, told the dispatcher "I've been kidnapped and been missing for 10 years. I'm here. I'm free now," according to ABC News. Unbeknownst to Cleveland, it was a city awakening from a nightmare that had been going on for more than 9 years. As CNN reported, Michelle Knight, age 21, disappeared in August of 2002; Amanda Berry, then 16, disappeared in April 2003; Georgina "Gina" DeJesus was just 14 when she disappeared one year later. All three women had been abducted by a local man named Ariel Castro and held against their will for years. Castro, a local school bus driver (until he was fired) was a father and fixture in Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood, where he owned a small house. It was here, says CNN, that all three women would be chained to prevent their escape, starved, tortured, and repeatedly raped.

On that spring day, though, Berry saw her chance at escape. According to ABC News, Berry took advantage of a rare moment when Castro was away to escape her bedroom (typically locked) and make her way downstairs to the front door. A padlocked storm door prevented her escape but she was able to make enough of a commotion to attract a neighbor who came to her aid. It would be the last day the women had to stay in that house of horrors.

Where Amanda Berry is today

It's possible one of the reasons Berry was so motivated that afternoon was that she was now a mother. She'd given birth to her child in the home on Christmas, 2006. The baby's father was Castro. Despite the trauma she'd endured, Berry was intent on keeping her baby, whom she named Jocelyn. Both Berry and DeJesus shared with ABC News that Jocelyn was a healing presence in the house, allowing Berry to feel like she had something that was hers and for DeJesus to take her mind off the nightmare, if only for a while.

Since her ordeal, Berry continues to raise her daughter, who is now a teenager, and she was finally able to graduate high school. She co-wrote a book about her experience with DeJesus and several Washington Post journalists, titled Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland. As of 2020, she also covers missing children's cases for a local news affiliate in Cleveland.

Where Gina DeJesus is today

DeJesus's abduction and captivity were noteworthy in several ways. Not only was she the youngest victim, she was also close friends with Castro's daughter. Castro was even friendly with DeJesus's father. None of that mattered to Castro, however, who abducted DeJesus on her way home from school. There was no reason for her not to trust her friend's dad when he pulled up alongside her and offered her a ride.

According to an interview DeJesus and Berry gave to ABC News, the youngest victim became Castro's favorite for a while, offering her some privileges the others weren't afforded. This pattern would repeat with Berry once her and Castro's daughter was born. The women are upfront about the jealousy and resentment this would cause. A grim way for anyone to spend their teenage years.

Now, DeJesus's post-escape life seems to be filled with purpose and much more joy. According to A&E, De Jesus finally got her driver's license — a teen rite of passage she'd been denied. She became an ambassador for Northeast Ohio AMBER Alert and founded an organization for families of missing people, the Cleveland Family Center for Missing Children and Adults, largely because of how much her family had to endure during her absence. The organization's location? Seymour Avenue, where the three had been held for nearly a decade.

Where Michelle Knight is today

At the time of her abduction, Knight was already a young adult and mother, if a troubled one in the process of trying to regain custody of her son, says A&E. She speculates that this may be why her abduction didn't receive the attention the other womens' had. It's easy to feel Knight's resentment in her words, and it seems like part of the reason DeJesus and Berry seem to have stayed close in the aftermath of their ordeal, while Knight has preferred to be on her own. Knight also shares that, unlike Berry, who was allowed to keep her baby, Castro beat her to the point that she lost five pregnancies while imprisoned.

These days, Knight, who has now rechristened herself Lily Rose Lee, is happily married and the author of her own books about the ordeal, Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed (2014) and Life After Darkness (2018). Per A&E, she credits some of her personal healing to equine therapy.

What happened to Ariel Castro

Following his arrest, Castro was initially indicted on a whopping 329 counts, including those for multiple counts for rape, kidnapping, felonious assault, and two counts of aggravated murder (for the pregnancies he terminated with his violence), among many others. Later, even more counts were added.

As part of a plea deal to avoid the death penalty, Castro pleaded guilty on July 26, 2013, to 937 counts in total. On August 1 he was sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus 1,000 years, as CNN reports. Less than six weeks later, Castro would be found dead in his prison cell. His cause of death was initially listed as suicide, then disputed as possible autoerotic asphyxiation, before a team of hired, independent investigators once again backed up the initial suicide findings, says CNN.

According to the Mirror, family members of DeJesus shared that she and Knight were going through a "mixture of emotions" in light of their tormentor's unexpected death.