Published August 03, 2013
Michelle Knight, the first of the victims kidnapped after accepting a ride from Ariel Castro, returned Friday to the Cleveland house where she was held captive for 11 years.
Knight's visit came one day after she confronted Castro in a Cleveland courtroom before a judge who followed a plea deal and gave Castro life in prison without parole plus 1,000 years.
Fox8.com reported that Knight returned to Castro's former home on Seymour Avenue and thanked neighbors for their support.
Neighbor Catherine Adames told the station Knight thanked her and took a picture with her.
“She’s little, but she’s strong; she’s really strong and I’m proud at how strong she is. It doesn’t seem like she’s letting that affect her,” Ademas said.
The house, a drive-by attraction, has been fenced off and under police guard since the women escaped and will be demolished.
Knight, along with Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old. Each had accepted a ride from Castro. They escaped May 6, when Berry, now 27, broke part of a door to Castro's house in a tough neighborhood and yelled to neighbors for help. Castro was arrested that evening.
Castro, a 53-year-old former school bus driver, pleaded guilty last week to 937 counts including aggravated murder, kidnapping, rape and assault. A deal struck with prosecutors spared him from a possible death sentence for beating and starving Knight until she miscarried.
Department of Rehabilitation and Correction spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said Friday Ariel Castro was moved from a Cleveland jail to the Lorain Correctional Institution in Grafton, 24 miles away. She described Castro as "calm and cooperative."
Officials said Castro won't go into the general population once he enters the state's prison system. He'll start his term isolated from other inmates for his own protection because of his high profile. He'll undergo medical and mental health evaluations.
Also Friday, organizers of the Cleveland Courage Fund to help the women Castro pleaded guilty to kidnapping say the fund has raised more than $1.3 million.
Knight, 32, spoke in a soft but determined voice Thursday just a few feet from Castro in the courtroom.
"You took 11 years of my life away, and I have got it back," Knight said in the hushed courtroom Thursday. "I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning."
The women have begun emerging from the privacy they had sought after they escaped to freedom.
Berry made a surprise onstage appearance at a rap concert last weekend, and DeJesus made a few televised comments as a privacy fence was being erected around her house.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.