CLEVELAND (AP) — Three women who police say were held captive in a Cleveland home for about a decade have issued a video in which they thanked the public for the encouragement and financial support that are allowing them to restart their lives.
Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight broke their public silence in the 3-minute, 30-second video posted Monday night on YouTube. They said the support and prayers of family, friends and the public are allowing them to rebuild their lives after what Berry called "this entire ordeal."
The women had gone missing separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16, and 20 years old.
In the video, none of the women had any visible scars of the abuse they said they suffered at the hands of Ariel Castro, who has pleaded not guilty to a 329-count indictment alleging he kidnapped them off the streets and held them captive in his two-story home. They were smiling and appeared upbeat.
Castro, a 52-year-old former bus driver, fathered a 6-year-old daughter with Berry and is accused of starving and punching Knight, causing her to miscarry. He was arrested May 6, shortly after Berry broke through a door at the home and yelled to neighbors for help.
Berry, the only one of the three women whose photographs have appeared publicly since her release, had shorter hair with a blonde streak in it. Knight, who authorities said had been taken captive first, wore glasses, had closely cropped hair and spoke a bit haltingly.
Knight said in the video that she is building a "brand new life."
"I may have been through hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face and my head held high," she said, reading from a prepared statement. "I will not let the situation define who I am. I will define the situation. I don't want to be consumed by hatred."
DeJesus' parents, Felix DeJesus and Nancy Ruiz, thanked the public for donations to a fund set up to help the women. In addition, Ruiz encouraged parents with missing loved ones to reach out for assistance. "Count on your neighbors," she said. "Don't be afraid to ask for the help because help is available."
Kathy Joseph, Knight's attorney, said in a statement that the three women wanted to "say thank you to people from Cleveland and across the world, now that two months have passed."
She said they're being recognized in public, "so they decided to put voices and faces to their heartfelt messages."
James Wooley, an attorney for Berry and DeJesus, also issued a statement saying Knight and his clients thank people for the privacy they've been given and do not want to discuss their case with the news media or anyone else.
The video was filmed July 2 and released by a public relations agency on the women's behalf with the cooperation of their lawyers.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.
Cal Fire firefighters are working to knock down a vegetation fire, dubbed the Lost Fire, off Lost Valley Road near Warner Springs.
Signs warning of shark in the area of Silver Strand State Beach have been posted following a report of a shark sighting Saturday morning.
A ticket with five numbers in Friday's drawing of the multi-state Mega Millions lottery, but missing the Mega number, was sold at a CVS pharmacy in Chula Vista and is worth $1,502,885.
Pop Culture Hero Coalition created the first-ever outreach against bullying at a Comic-Con in 2013, and has since participated in over 30 conventions. The group is hosting an anti-bullying panel at Comic-Con Day 3 from 2 to 3 p.m. in Room 28DE.
A young father detained by immigration officials and facing deportation was freed Friday, and a protest planned for Fallbrook Saturday will instead be turned into a celebration, community leaders said.
Civil rights leader John Lewis led a march through Comic-Con on Saturday. About 1,000 people joined the Georgia Democrat on a march through the crowded San Diego Convention Center following a panel discussion of about his trilogy of graphic novels, "March."
Politicians will join celebrities at Comic-Con International Saturday in San Diego as the annual celebration of the popular arts enters its third day at the convention center.