Michell Knight vanished without a trace on August 21, 2002. Eleven years later, she was found alive inside a Cleveland, Ohio, home. Authorities said Ariel Castro kidnapped Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus between 2002 and 2004. All three women were held captive inside his home, where they were repeatedly assaulted and raped. Although it has been two years since her escape, Knight said she is still learning to embrace her freedom.
Following the women’s escape, Castro was apprehended and charged with 977 criminal counts, including child endangerment, felonious assault, gross sexual imposition, kidnapping, and rape. He was also charged with aggravated murder, as he reportedly impregnated Michelle Knight and forced her to miscarry.
In July 2013, Ariel Castro pleaded guilty to a majority of the charges. As his admission of guilt was part of a plea agreement, he was spared the death penalty. He was later sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years. As a condition of the plea agreement, he was further ordered to forfeit his assets, including the home where Michelle Knight and the others were held captive. He was also ordered to pay a $100,000 fine.
One month later, Castro hanged himself at the Pickaway Correctional Institution. His death was later ruled a suicide.
Although Ariel Castro is dead, Michelle Knight is still haunted by the time she was held captive. She admits that she still struggles. However, she said she “would change nothing,” as the ordeal “made [her] who [she is] today, a strong woman.”
As reported by Cleveland.com, Knight continues to gain strength through helping others. In a recent interview with Dr. Phil, Knight detailed her plans to continue working as a motivational speaker. 19 Action News reports that she also aspires to become a therapist.
Michelle Knight said she has great success with Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, which is a therapeutic technique that allows patients to interact with animals and spend time outdoors. Knight said the therapy has helped “get her voice back and get in touch with who she is.”
She also credits Dr. Phil for giving her the courage to move on. Although she has faced tremendous adversity, she wants others to know it is possible to overcome hardship and grow beyond the pain.
Michelle Knight has been straightforward and honest about her ordeal. However, she said some of her worst struggles are with things she has “been keeping secret.” Knight is expected to discuss those secrets during a Dr. Phil special, which will air on November 14.
[Image via Time]