CLEVELAND (AP) — Free and safe, one of three women kidnapped and raped over a decade in a ramshackle home smiled lightly as her tormentor was led out of court in chains, a method he had used to control them.
Michelle Knight, the first of the victims kidnapped after accepting a ride from Ariel Castro, spoke in a soft but determined voice Thursday in front of a judge who followed a plea deal and gave Castro life in prison without parole plus 1,000 years.
“We said we’ll all get out alive someday, and we did,” Knight said.
“You took 11 years of my life away, and I have got it back,” she said in the hushed courtroom. “I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning.”
Knight, who spoke just a few feet from Castro in the courtroom, finished her statement and returned to her seat without looking at him. Earlier, he had tried to make eye contact, but deputies quickly stepped into his line of vision.
Knight, 32, belittled Castro’s routine of going to church and returning to abuse the women in the darkened Cleveland home, which was equipped with chains, locked doors and windows boarded up from the inside.
“What does God think of you hypocritically going to church each Sunday and then coming home to torture us?” she said. “The death penalty would be the easy way out. You don’t deserve that. We want you to spend the rest of your life in prison.”
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.
Castro apologized to his victims briefly in a rambling, defiant statement before he was sentenced, quibbling with the judge on whether rape is a violent crime. As people in the gallery watched wide-eyed, Castro repeatedly blamed his sex addiction, his former wife and others while claiming most of the sex was consensual and the women he held were never tortured.
“These people are trying to paint me as a monster,” he said. “I’m not a monster. I’m sick.”
He pointed out that the FBI was once close to him when agents talked with his daughter, who was walking home with victim Gina DeJesus on the day she disappeared.
“The FBI let these girls down when they questioned my daughter,” he said. “They failed to question me.”
He also said he was never abusive until he met his former wife, who is now dead.
“I am not a violent person,” Castro said repeatedly.
Assistant prosecutor Anna Faraglia said Knight’s appearance in court displayed her resilience.