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Rescued women celebrate one year of freedom

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Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus
Flower garden on Seymour Avenue Flower garden on Seymour Avenue
Police activity on Seymour Avenue as Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight are found (May 6, 2013) Police activity on Seymour Avenue as Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight are found (May 6, 2013)
CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) -

One year ago today Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were rescued after being held for years in captivity at a home on Cleveland's Seymour Avenue.

The women were kidnapped and sexually assaulted by Ariel Castro for more than a decade before Berry managed to break free and call for help. Berry gave birth to a daughter while in captivity.

The women have since reunited with friends and family, and are now thriving. All have a book deal in the works, and there is talk to develop their horrific ordeal into a Lifetime television movie.

Michelle Knight now goes by the name Lili Rose Lee. She says she forgives Castro and is moving on with her life.

Statement from Amanda Berry on the one-year anniversary of her escape:

I would like to thank all the people who have helped and supported my family and me.  You have changed our lives in ways you'll never know.
On this day, we decided that the right place for us to be was with other families who have gone through what our family has gone through.  I want these families to know they will always have a special place in our hearts.
So much has happened this past year.  I have grown.  I am strong.  And I have so much to live for, to look forward to.  The future is bright.

Statement from Gina DeJesus on the one-year anniversary of her escape:

I want to thank everyone who donated to the Courage Fund and sent gifts to me.  You have made such a difference in my life. This past year has been amazing, full of healing and hope.  I am spending time with my family and working with Amanda on a book that we are really excited about.  I have also been enjoying new experiences, such as learning how to use new technology and how to drive.  Thanks for continuing to respect my privacy and that of my family.

The women will receive money through the Courage Fund that now has $1.4 million dollars. They are very appreciative of the support and continue to ask for privacy so they can live a normal life.

Tuesday night, Cleveland Police, Guardian Angels and community volunteers will return to Seymour Avenue to kick off a city-wide awareness campaign for missing people. Castro's house of horrors was ultimately razed before a cheering crowd in August of 2013. The land has since been developed into a peaceful flower garden. 

Monday, Cuyahoga County Prosecutors released nearly 1,000 pages of documents on Ariel Castro.

Records show some of Castro's first words to police at the city jail. He called his hostages "his secret." But he also called himself "a victim" of abuse as a child.

The release of records includes a letter Castro wrote back in 2004 and left in his house - a letter 19 Action News revealed hours after investigators searched Castro's home. The letter was called confessions and details.

"I am very sorry. I am sick. These three women are the only ones," Castro wrote in the letter.

Castro took a plea deal to avoid the death penalty, and was sentenced to life in prison, plus 1,000 years. Just one month into his sentence, the convicted kidnapper and rapist used a bed sheet to hang himself in his cell at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient, OH in Pickaway County.

 

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