Michelle Knight is one among the three women (other being Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry) who were kidnapped by Ariel Castro and held prisoners in his house in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio. She spent more than a decade inside the house where she was chained, beaten, tortured and raped before finally being rescued. This brave-heart’s torture was so brutal that it came as a shock for everyone including Cuyahoga County Prosecutor McGinty who stated that he hadn’t seen anything like this incident before. He said that he was aware of no one else who had been through what Knight had been subjected to, excluding some Vietnam or Korean prisoners. He also stated that even the prisoners don’t go through the torture for as long as she had to. After her dramatic release, Michelle Knight’s story has been adapted into several movies, books and TV shows. One such movie ‘Cleveland Abduction’ was aired in May 2015. The lady has got numerous tattoos on her body that represent the story of her 11-year imprisonment. Today, this courageous survivor has become a media sensation. She advocates for the victims of rapes. She also campaigns to raise awareness about other such crimes of violence. Despite the nightmarish and terrifying conditions she endured, she wants to tell people that she’s a survivor.
Childhood & Early Life
Michelle Knight was born on April 23, 1981 in Cleveland, Ohio. She has a mother (Barbara Knight), two twin brothers (Eddie and Freddie), grandmother (Deborah) and a half-sister (Katie) who was born after she went missing. As a child, Michelle wanted to become a firefighter and later, a veterinarian.
She had a painful and poverty-stricken childhood. She was raped by a male family member when she was just a little girl. This family member continued raping her through the years and also threatened to kill her.
Knight endured a troubled relationship with her family due to which she ran from her house at the age of 15 and started living under a highway bridge. She used to sleep in a garbage bin and eat at a church. A drug dealer found her and gave her a job. After the dealer was arrested, she again went back to the bin.
With the height of 4 feet and 7 inches, she was bullied in her school due to her short height. At the age of 17, Knight told her mother that her fellow students call her “Shorty”.
When Michelle Knight was in high school, she became pregnant and dropped out of the school to give birth to her son Joey who was later taken into custody by the children’s authority and placed in foster care. The reason for this was an injury caused to her son by her mother’s abusive boyfriend. Later on, Joey was adopted by a caring family.
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Kidnapping & Captivity
On August 23, 2002, Michelle Knight disappeared after leaving her cousin’s home. At that time she was 21 years old. On the same day, she was about to visit the court for the hearings regarding the custody case of her son. Due to this coincidence, the investigators believed that she ran away on her own because she lost the hope of regaining her child. Although her mother continued posting fliers about her, Knight was removed from the database of the National Crime Information Center.
Michelle Knight was offered a ride by Ariel Castro on August 23 after she lost her way and asked for directions from a store. She accepted his offer due to the fact that she was familiar with one of Castro’s daughters. Knight then entered Castro’s home which was located at 2207 Seymour Avenue. Castro asked her to follow him and she did so as he promised her to give a puppy for Joey. He then imprisoned her.
On the first day of her captivity, Knight was tied with extension cords, strung up on poles and raped by Castro. Once he was done, she was raised up off the floor and gagged with a duct tape and a sock.
After getting raped by Castro for the first time, Knight was moved to the basement and chained for months. In the basement, she was left with a bucket which she could use as a toilet. Castro unchained Knight only to rape her. For the first eight months, she was not even given a chance to bathe. She was feed only once a day or sometimes, twice.
After taking Knight out of the basement, Castro would unchain her in his bedroom to rape and torture her.
After a few weeks, Ariel Castro brought a radio for her. However, he warned her not to listen to black artists. Castro also brought a pit bull puppy for her. Seven months later, when the pit bull tried to protect Knight, Castro broke his neck and the dog died.
During her first winter in captivity, Michelle Knight was left naked in a bedroom for months. After several months of her captivity, Knight was given a small TV and was again warned not to watch anything related to black people.
Repeatedly raped, she became pregnant five times and Castro kicked, punched, slammed or hit her with a barbell as a result of which she suffered a miscarriage each time she got pregnant.
Castro chained Knight and another one of his victims, Gina DeJesus, together in the same room and ultimately both of them got close and became like sisters. Around this time Castro also had a third victim, Amanda Berry, imprisoned in a separate room with her young daughter.
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Rescue & Rehabilitation
On May 6, 2013, Castro left his home and Berry, along with her 6-year old daughter, managed to escape. She contacted the police and soon the authorities rescued Knight and DeJesus.
Michelle Knight and the other rescued victims were brought to the MetroHealth Medical Center. Knight was diagnosed with a list of health problems. She suffered from nerve damage, facial damage, stomach infection, loss of vision and deafness in one ear. Knight was released from the center on May 10.
Knight was taken to an assisted living home where she stayed till November 2013.
She chose to avoid her family after getting discharged from the hospital. However, her twin brothers came to see her at the hospital.
Castro was sentenced in August 2013. Right after his sentencing, Knight told Castro that she has got her life back after spending 11 years in hell and now his time has come. She also told him that she can forgive him but she can’t forget what happened to her.
On July 9, 2013, Knight broke her silence for the first time since her rescue by releasing a video in which she thanked those who supported her.
In November 2013, she spoke to the television host Dr. Phil McGraw and discussed her ordeals with him.
In May 2014, Knight wrote a book ‘Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed’. This book highlights the darkest days of her captivity in Cleveland. She also released her composition, a song titled ‘Survivor’.
Since her escape, Michelle Knight has become an advocate for dealing with cases of abuse.
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She has since changed her name to ‘Lily Rose Lee’.Currently, she is living a free life in Cleveland and attending cooking classes. She dreams of opening her own restaurant one day. She is also learning to play piano.
Michelle Knight loves to sing, dance and draw. She also has a puppy and a network of friends.
She believes that it was the love for her son that helped her get through those tortuous years although she hasn’t been able to meet him even after two years of her release.
She says that she loves her son and misses him more than one can imagine. And because of her love, she doesn’t want to interrupt his life.
She also says that she can use the legal system and fight for her son but she doesn’t want to do that. She just expects the adoptive family to fill the hole in her heart by sharing her son’s stories and photos with her.
Castro used to torment Knight by saying that no one was looking for her and the world has forgotten her.
Knight addressed Castro as ‘dude’.
Castro used to throw dollar bills at Michelle Knight after raping her.
As of now, Knight can’t have more children and wants to adopt a few.
She was never registered on Ohio Missing people’s website.