Cleveland house of horror victims recall escape from Castro
Courageous kidnapping victim Amanda Berry will never forget the moment she made her mad dash from Ariel Castro’s Cleveland “house of horrors,” ending a decade of torture, imprisonment and rape for her and two other women.
Now, nearly two years after the great escape, the 53-year-old Castro is dead from a jail suicide while the women are rebuilding their lives — and speaking out about the traumatic experience in a new book and TV interview.
“Please, help me! I’m Amanda Berry! I’ve been kidnapped for 10 years. Help me!” Berry remembers yelling from behind a sealed storm door on May 6, 2013, the first time Castro forgot to lock his prisoners in their rooms before leaving the house, according to an excerpt from her new memoir published in People magazine.
Berry was pleading with a curious but confused man who stepped onto her porch as a woman on the street argued she couldn’t possibly be Berry because Berry died years earlier.
“No! I’m right here. Who cares who I am? Can’t they help me,” she recalls thinking.
Luckily, the man sensed her utter desperation and helped her kick out the door that was the final barrier between her and freedom, the excerpt from “Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland” recounts.
“At first it was so unreal,” Berry told Robin Roberts in a special edition of ABC’s “20/20” that will air April 28.
“When the cops had gotten there, I told them, ‘there’s two other girls in the house’ … they put me in a car and then that’s when they ran upstairs to get them, and once I saw that, I’m like, ‘This is it. I think we’re free now.’”
Berry, 29, and Gina DeJesus, 25, co-authored the new book and confirmed to People that they’re no longer close with third victim Michelle Knight, who also chose not to appear in the ABC special.
“I think we all did like each other at one point, then (Castro) played us against each other so we couldn’t trust people,” DeJesus told the magazine.
Knight, who has since changed her name to Lilly Rose Lee, was 21 years old when she was the first to be taken captive in 2002.
Berry disappeared in 2003, a day before she turned 17. A year later, 14-year-old DeJesus also went missing.
Thus began an unbearable decade of beatings, sexual abuse and imprisonment inside their torture-chamber bedrooms.
In one terrifying scene brought to light in People, DeJesus recalls Castro leading her in a game of Russian Roulette with a gun holding a single bullet.
She says she agreed to play with the understanding that if she survived the first round, she could put the gun to Castro’s head for round two.
“He puts the gun to my temple and pulls the trigger. I hear a click,” she writes in the harrowing excerpt published by People.
She put the gun to Castro’s head and heard another click.
DeJesus was worried Castro might punish her for pulling the trigger, but he stood up without seeming to care, she says of the 2004 incident.
As time passed, the women slowly got to know one another, the memoir explains. Knight had five miscarriages stemming from Castro’s rapes, while Berry had a baby named Jocelyn, now 8, during her captivity.
Before learning about her pregnancy, Berry was devastated to hear in 2006 that her mom Louwana Miller died of a heart attack at age 43.
“I think my mom sent me this baby. It’s her way of giving me an angel,” Berry says in the memoir.
She says Castro seemed excited to become a father, and at one point she even reached for his hand and placed it on her stomach to let him feel their unborn baby kick.
She sensed the child would be safer if Castro felt a connection before the birth on Christmas Day 2006.
She said Castro’s devotion to Jocelyn filled her with conflicting emotions, especially when he bought the child clothes and toys and called her “pretty.”
“I desperately want Jocelyn to have a normal life. On the days that he helps me do that, I actually feel some affection for him,” she admits in the People excerpts.
DeJesus told ABC that Jocelyn helped them cope.
“It was fun because I can get away from the situation,” DeJesus told ABC. “When I was playing with Jocelyn, Jocelyn made me forget everything.”
The two women said they searched for other semblances of normalcy. When Castro locked them up and went to work, they’d sing or dance, then spend Thursday nights catching “The Vampire Diaries” on TV.
“We would watch the show and then for two hours afterward, we would talk about what’s going to happen next week,” Berry said. But once their captor came home, “He would walk up the stairs and just ruin our whole day,” DeJesus added. “He was always watching us. Before the door opened, your heart was just beating real fast.”
The women clung to hope, not knowing that their families and friends were still desperately searching for them, unaware that the three women were held captive just blocks from their childhood homes.
When Castro left them unlocked the day of their escape, Berry almost hesitated, she confesses.
“I didn’t know what to do, my heart immediately started pounding because I’m like, ‘is — should I chance it? … He could be here any minute, if I’m going to do it, I need to do it now,’” Berry told ABC.