Michelle Knight today visited Ariel Castro’s house, the place where she spent more than a decade in captivity being raped and beaten, and watched it being torn to the ground.
Carrying a bunch of yellow balloons when she arrived at 2207 Seymour Street in Cleveland, Ohio, just before 7 a.m. this morning, Michelle Knight handed them out to neighbors to thank them for their support.
They then released them together as a symbol of hope and solidarity.
Wearing a pair of rosary beads around her neck, Michelle Knight said a prayer and hugged representatives from the county prosecutor’s office as she was accompanied down the street by a small group of Guardian Angels.
Michelle Knight, who has become an advocate for missing children, told the crowd she wanted to be there today because no one was there for her when she was missing.
“Dear Lord, give the missing people strength and power to know they are loved, we hear their cries, they are never forgotten in my heart,” Michelle Knight said.
“They are caterpillars waiting to be turned into butterflies.
“I want the people to know, including the mothers, that they can have strength, they can have hope, and their child will come back.”
The balloons represented children who have been abducted but were never found, Michelle Knight said, and carried with them the simple message that “there is hope for everyone”.
The crowd who gathered at the house erupted into cheers as the crane came smashing down on the roof.
Gina DeJesus’ aunt Peggy Arida was in the cab of the crane and took the first swing. Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus were not there.
Michelle Knight said organizers asked the families if someone wanted to begin the demolition and she agreed to do it, “because I had so much anger inside me. I wanted to do it. It felt great. It felt like a house of horrors coming down”.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said at a press conference outside the home: “For ten years this house was a secret prison of a psychopath but after today it will be gone.
“He’s going to sit in the bowels of prison now the rest of his life, the rest of his days, in fear himself of the other prisoners.”
Officials will grind Ariel Castro’s house to dust to make the place where unimaginable tortures took place completely disappear.
Authorities revealed they will be using the $22,000 found in Ariel Castro’s washing machine to tear down the house and put a symbol of hope in its place.
The money was offered to the girls but they said they wanted it to go to the neighborhood.
The house was torn down as part of a plea deal that spared Ariel Castro from a possible death sentence.
Ariel Castro had such an emotional attachment to the home that he broke down in tears when he had to sign over the property deed, ABC reports, saying it was wrong to tear it down because he had so many happy memories there.
His family members were allowed to take approved personal items from the home on Monday. Workers emptied the house of furniture and other belongings Tuesday.
The girls – and the community – will decide what to put at the spot once it is torn down.
The razing comes less than a week after Ariel Castro was sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus 1,000 years, for holding Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry captive in his home on Cleveland’s west side.
A steady stream of on-lookers drove by the house before Cleveland police blocked off the street to traffic.
Google had already “disappeared” the house on its Street View features since yesterday. Searches for the address now show just a blurred box instead of the house.
The city of Cleveland seized the home and donated it to the Cuyahoga Land Bank, a non-profit organization that fights urban blight in the city.
The Land Bank has not revealed its plans for the property.
Felix DeJesus said he and his wife and daughter Gina will watch the house come down.
“Thank God it will be over with. And tomorrow I will be there to see this house come down,” he told WOIO-TV.
On July 26, Ariel Castro – a former elementary school bus driver – pleaded guilty to more than 900 counts of kidnapping, rape and assault and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Pictures emerged from inside the home of chains and restraints and makeshift alarms that he used to keep the young women bent to his sadistic will.
Neighbors are happy to see the house torn down.
“I want things to be like it were, quiet and peaceful. But to see that house go down it really will be a relief because I am so sick and tired of looking at it,” Henrietta Bell told the Cleveland TV station.
The land bank’s president, Gus Frangos said that the organization is trying to keep away scavengers who might try to sell the rubble as what is known as “murderabilia”.
In 2011, a website that sells items related to high-profile crimes put on sale 1-gram packages of soil from the home of Cleveland serial killer Anthony Sowell before a city agency razed the house.
Anthony Sowell was convicted that year of killing 11 women and was sentenced to death. His case is under appeal.