Michelle Knight revealed that Ariel Castro used the promise of a puppy to lure her into his Cleveland home where he held her hostage for 11 years.
“He tells me, <<Just come in for a little while. The puppies are upstairs. You can take one home to your son>>,” Michelle Knight said in an interview broadcast Tuesday on the syndicated Dr. Phil talk show.
But she soon realized there were no puppies inside Ariel Castro’s home. And it wasn’t long, Michelle Knight said, before he trapped her in an upstairs room and tied her up with an extension cord. From there, he took her down into the basement about 24 hours later, she said.
It was the beginning of more than a decade of torture, rape, starvation and beatings for Michelle Knight. The hope of seeing her son again, she said, inspired her fight to survive.
“I want my son to know me as a victor, not a victim,” Michelle Knight told host Dr. Phil McGraw.
“And I wanted him to know that I survived, loving him. His love got me through.”
Ariel Castro lured Michelle Knight into his vehicle from a Family Dollar store in Cleveland in 2002, promising to give her a ride.
Michelle Knight was the first of three women he would capture and imprison in his home for about a decade. They were freed in May after one of the women, Amanda Berry, called out to neighbors for help.
In August, Ariel Castro was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years after he pleaded guilty to 937 counts, including murder and kidnapping. He committed suicide in his prison cell on September 3.
Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and the third woman, Gina DeJesus, have since been trying to readjust to life as free women. Knight, whose disappearance generated the least public notice of the three, has been the most outspoken.
“After 11 years, I am finally being heard, and it’s liberating,” she said in a powerful statement at Ariel Castro’s sentencing, describing the abuse she endured.
Her interview with “Dr. Phil,” which began airing Tuesday and is set to continue Wednesday, provides a detailed glimpse into some of the horrors she suffered and her struggle to survive.
Michelle Knight said she remembered the warning, the one Ariel Castro delivered while wrapping a chain around her neck and shackling her to a metal pole in the basement of his Cleveland home.
“Now, if I do it too tight and you don’t make it, that means you wasn’t meant to stay here. That means God wanted to take you,” Ariel Castro said, according to Knight.
Michelle Knight told Phil McGraw she sometimes spent days in the basement, chained to the pole, unable to lie down and with a motorcycle helmet over her head. The helmet made it hard to breathe, she said, “and later on I didn’t remember a thing ’cause I had passed out.”
A photograph of the pole showed white paint had been scraped away.
“That’s where I tried to get out,” Michelle Knight said.
“And I couldn’t pull the pole down because I wasn’t strong enough.”
Michelle Knight told Phil McGraw that she didn’t always fight back, though, at least not at first.
She said she was in shock after being taken and all she could do was cry and beg him to let her go back to her son.
Several attempts to escape were met with harsh punishment, she said.
“He took a pipe and he held it … over my head, and he said, <<If you scream, I’ll ram this down your throat and I’ll kill you>>,” Michelle Knight recalled, describing what she said was Ariel Castro’s response after she used a pair of pliers and a wire cutter to remove a chain around her neck.
“So I didn’t scream. I didn’t make a noise. I just laid there.”
Michelle Knight, now 32, was 21 years old when she was reported missing in 2002.
Ariel Castro, she said, would tell her of his plans to abduct other women and also implied he’d done it before.
She said he showed her an area in the basement where it said, “Rest in Peace.”
“I begged him not to bring any more there to suffer the hell I went through,” Michelle Knight said.
But it wasn’t long before Michelle Knight learned that she wasn’t the only captive.
In 2003, Amanda Berry joined her inside the house. At first, she said, they rarely saw each other.
“When we did, it was like a quick hug and <<bye>>, because he wouldn’t let us stay in the same room for that long,” she said.
When they were in separate rooms, Michelle Knight said, she would blare her television if she saw Amanda Berry’s mother on air, to make sure Amanda knew to watch. And when she saw Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight said, she tried to comfort her.
“Sometimes she would cry, and I’d tell her everything would be OK, and that one day we’ll get home,” Michelle Knight told Phil McGraw.
“We just have to, you know, wait it out.”
Since their release, accounts have depicted Michelle Knight as someone who cared for the other victims during their captivity while also enduring great suffering herself.
A family friend of one of the victims said this year that Ariel Castro used Michelle Knight as his main “punching bag.”
The friend said Ariel Castro hit Knight with a variety of objects, including hand weights. She has suffered vision loss, joint and muscle damage, and other problems from her time in captivity.
In the interview with Phil McGraw, Michelle Knight said she once watched Ariel Castro kill a beloved dog by breaking its neck. She said she was kept in a frigid room with windows boarded up. And she said Ariel Castro once punched her in the stomach with a barbell when he learned she was pregnant.
“I fell to the floor. … He said, <<Tomorrow it’d better be gone. That’s all he said>>,” Michelle Knight recalled.
“Then when I did miscarry, he blamed me. He said that I hated him, that I killed his kid, and he punched me in the face, saying that it was all my fault.”
During Michelle Knight’s time in captivity, her case got less media attention than the disappearances of Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, whose family members posted fliers and held candlelight vigils for them.
Michelle Knight told Phil McGraw that her son was taken away after her mother’s boyfriend abused him.
“And then they tried to say that I never protected him, and I did,” she said.
“I did all I could do.”
She was still trying to do all she could on the day when she was abducted in 2002, Michelle Knight said. She told Phil McGraw she got lost on the way to a meeting with social services to discuss her son’s custody. That’s when she stopped at the dollar store to ask for directions, she said, and when Castro offered her a ride.
In the interview, Michelle Knight also gave a glimpse into what she described as a troubled childhood before her abduction, which she said was why she didn’t want to see her mother after she was released.
“I wished my mother wasn’t my mother. … I wasn’t allowed out. I wasn’t allowed to have friends. She made sure I was dumber than a doorknob,” she said.
In response, her mother, Barbara Knight, issued a statement to the Dr. Phil show.
“Michelle, my daughter, has been the victim of long-term and profound and unspeakable torture. Her point of view has been altered by that monster and what he did to her,” the statement said.
“What I have heard that she said about me breaks my heart. That is because what she now believes, while not true, increases her pain. I love my daughter. I always have and always will. I pray that someday she will heal enough to know that again.”
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