Seven years later: Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight strong, courageous survivors after escape

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CLEVELAND, Ohio — Seven years ago today, years of torture and horrific abuse ended for three women after a 911 call set into motion an unbelievable chain of events in Cleveland.

“Help me. I’m Amanda Berry. Dispatcher: Do you need police, fire or ambulance? Amanda Berry: I need police. Dispatcher: Okay. What’s going on there? Amanda Berry: I’ve been kidnapped and I’ve been missing for ten years and I’m here; I’m free now.”

Before May 6, 2013, Amanda Berry hadn’t been seen or heard from for nearly 10 years. For Gina DeJesus, it was nearly nine years. And Michelle Knight, now known as Lily Rose Lee, was missing for nearly 11 years.

That all ended that day after Berry was able to escape out the front door to what’s been called “the house of horrors” on Seymour Avenue where kidnapper, Ariel Castro, restrained, abused and sexually assaulted them over and over.

After years of torture, their captor, Castro, happened to leave his door unlocked when he went out. That’s when Berry took the risk and screamed for help.

Charles Ramsey, who was a neighbor of Castro, kicked through the bottom of the storm door that let Amanda and her daughter escape. They ran to a neighbor’s home to call 911.

Since then, the women have proven they are strong and courageous survivors.

A Timeline

Michelle Knight (Photo from James Ford Rhodes High School yearbook)

2002:

  • On Aug. 23, 2002, Michelle Knight, then 21, said she got lost while looking for a social worker regarding an issue with her son. She said Castro offered her a ride. She knew Castro’s daughter and accepted the ride. Castro then lured her to his home with the promise of a puppy. When she went inside, there was a dog but no puppy. She was then restrained inside the home.

2003:

  • On April 21, 2003, Amanda Berry, then 16, said she was just getting off work at Burger King when a van drove by with a female inside that she thought she knew. When the van came back, she got in, but the female was no longer inside. Castro asked her if she knew his son who worked at Burger King, He then took her to his house to see his daughter. Berry said she was given a tour of the home. She asked to be taken home and tried to run, but became disoriented and ran into a closet.

2004:

  • On April 2, 2004, Gina DeJesus, who was 14 at the time, was walking home from school with Castro’s daughter. The girls were hoping to make plans with each other but were not given permission, so they parted ways. Castro later caught up with DeJesus and offered her a ride. He then asked her to carry a speaker into his home. Once inside, she wanted to leave. Castro led her to the basement, where was restrained.

2013:

  • On May 82013: Amanda and Gina return home. Two neighborhoods on Cleveland’s west side celebrate
  • On May 92013: Ariel Castro appears in court. The judge orders him locked up on $8 million bond
  • On May 102013: Michelle Knight is released from the hospital
  • On July 92013: For the first time, we see and hear from the women
  • On August 12013: Ariel Castro is sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years. Michelle Knight speaks in court
  • On August 7, 2013: The house of horrors on Seymour Avenue is torn down
  • On September 3, 2013: A prison guard finds Ariel Castro hanging by a sheet in his cell

2014:

  • On February 24, 2014: A big celebration and a big honor from Ohio Governor John Kasich, who awarded Amanda, Gina and Michelle Ohio Courage Medals
  • On May 6, 2014: On the one-year anniversary of the women’s escape, Michelle Knight releases her book titled ‘Finding Me.’ Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus are honored in Washington, D.C. and receive an award from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
  • On May 9, 2014: Michelle Knight joins FOX 8 News in the Morning to talk about her new book and spreads messages of hope
Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus

2015:

  • April 27, 2015: ‘Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland‘ hits store shelves. Through more than 300 pages, Amanda and Gina recall the decade they spent in captivity. Amanda also thanks Charles Ramsey for helping the women find freedom.
  • May 1, 2015: Amanda and Gina speak at an event in Cleveland, thanking the community for their support
  • May 2, 2015: Lifetime Original Movie, “Cleveland Abduction,” premieres.
  • May 19, 2015: Lee releases a song called “Survivor.”
  • May 27, 2015: Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus received honorary high school diplomas at John Marshall High School.
  • May 2015: Lee gets married

2017:

  • Feb. 6, 2017: Amanda Berry becomes part of the Fox 8 family, teaming up with us to help find missing people from across Northeast Ohio.

2018:

  • March 2018: DeJesus joins forces with the Northeast Ohio Amber Alert committee to help start a unique program to help victims and family members.

2019:

For more on Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, click here.

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