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Cleveland Kidnapping Victim To Castro: Your Hell is Just Beginning

By Chuck Sudo in News on Aug 1, 2013 8:20PM

Ariel Castro was sentenced to life in prison Thursday for kidnapping, imprisoning and raping Cleveland women Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight during a 10-plus-year period. Knight, who was held captive the longest by Castro, read an emotional and powerful statement to the former school bus driver and musician before he was sentenced.

"Days turned into nights, nights turned into days. Years turned into eternity,” Knight, 32, said in a halting voice, choking back tears. “I knew nobody cared about me. He told me that my family didn't care.

"I spent 11 years of hell. Now your hell is just beginning."

Speaking before Cuyahoga County Judge Michael Russo, Castro vacillated between contrition, defiance and possibly delusion as he attempted to explain his actions as the result of an addiction to pornography. At one point, Castro claimed the sex with Knight, DeJesus and Berry was consensual and even slut-shamed them. "I’m not trying to make excuses for my actions,” Castro said, making excuses for his actions. “The girls were not virgins. They had multiple sex partners before me.”

Castro told Russo he believed he could file for parental rights for the 6-year-old daughter he fathered with Amanda Berry, to which Russo replied Castro would not be allowed any contact with the girl. Russo said of Castro's claims the women lived an idyllic life with him, “I’m not sure there’s anyone in America that would agree with you.

Castro pleaded guilty earlier this week to 937 counts of kidnapping and raping Berry, DeJesus and Knight. He also admitted guilt in the miscarriage of one of the women's pregnancies. Prosecutors in the case revealed the three women maintained diaries detailing their years in captivity that "speak of forced sexual conduct, of being locked in a dark room, of anticipating the next session of abuse, of the dreams of someday escaping and being reunited with family, of being chained to a wall."

A handwritten letter from Knight to Cleveland Police thanking them for their part in the women's rescue was also released as part of Castro's sentencing statement.

"I am overwhelmed by the amount of thoughts, love & prayers expressed by complete strangers," says the note, which was posted on a Cleveland police Facebook page and which the department confirmed as authentic to NBC News on Wednesday. "It is comforting."

Previous Chicagoist coverage of Ariel Castro and the Cleveland kidnappings.