Ohio kidnappings: Michelle Knight delivers statement

Ariel Castro: imprisoned for life plus 1,000 years. Picture: PA
Ariel Castro: imprisoned for life plus 1,000 years. Picture: PA
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ONE of three women held in an Ohio home for nearly a decade told their captor he will “face hell for eternity”, as he was jailed for life.

Michelle Knight, 32, cried yesterday as she delivered her victim impact statement before Ariel Castro.

The former school bus driver kept his victims chained up and repeatedly raped them. He was imprisoned for life without parole, plus 1,000 years – but told the court he was not a monster.

Ms Knight, 32, Amanda Berry, 27, and Gina DeJesus, 23, were rescued in May after one of them escaped from the Cleveland home

Cuyahoga County Judge Michael Russo imposed the prison sentence after an emotional court hearing yesterday at which Ms Knight said Castro put her through a life of hell.

“You took 11 years of my life away, and I have got it back,” Ms Knight told him. “I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning. I will overcome all that has happened, but you will face hell for eternity.”

Castro, 53, pleaded guilty last week to hundreds of criminal charges to avoid the possibility of the death penalty.

Castro listened to her testimony without expression.

Gina DeJesus, 23, Amanda Berry, 27, and Ms Knight all went missing from Cleveland between 2002 and 2004 aged 14, 16, and 20 years old respectively. They were discovered on 6 May after neighbours heard Ms ­Berry’s cries for help.

Castro admitted at the hearing yesterday that he was a sick man but said he is not the monster described by prosecutors.

Castro said he knows what he did was wrong, but he was not a violent person and his captives asked for sex and were not tortured.

Judge Russo dismissed Castro’s claims that the women lived a happy life with him.

“I’m not sure there’s anyone in America that would agree with you,” he said.

Ms Knight, 32, did not face Castro as she spoke, but he glanced toward her several times after she entered the courtroom. She said she cried every night and that her years in captivity “turned into eternity”.

Ms Knight was the only one of the victims to speak at the hearing. Relatives of the other two read statements on their behalf.

Ms Knight was the first woman abducted by Castro in 2002 after he lured her into his house with the promise of a puppy for her son. Castro has pleaded guilty to charges that he repeatedly raped Ms Knight and two other victims, and also forced Ms Knight to miscarry after he impregnated her.

At yesterday’s hearing, FBI agent Andrew Burke said Castro turned his house into a prison by creating an alarm system and chaining the women inside bolted bedrooms.

Cleveland police detective Andrew ­Harasimchuk said that the women all described a pattern of being physically, sexually and emotionally assaulted for years.

He said all three women were chained in his basement and sexually assaulted within a few hours of being kidnapped.

The women escaped after Amanda Berry kicked out a door panel and Castro was arrested within hours. Castro repeatedly starved and beat one of the victims each time she was pregnant, forcing her to miscarry five times.

He forced the same woman on threat of death to deliver the child he fathered with another victim on Christmas Day 2006. The same day, prosecutors said, Castro raped the woman who helped deliver his daughter.