Standing in the courtroom with the man who held her captive for more than a decade Thursday, Michelle Knight issued an emotional and searing statement to Ariel Castro, directly admonishing him for the years of abuse she suffered at his hand.
“You took 11 years of my life away, and I never got it back,” she said. “I spent 11 years in hell, now your hell is just beginning. I will overcome all this that happened, but you will face hell for eternity.”
Of the three victims, only Knight showed up in court to address her captor directly at his sentencing hearing. Both Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus sent family members to read statements on their behalf.
“I worried about what would happen to me and the other girls every day. Days never got shorter,” Knight said of her 11 year ordeal. “Days turned into nights. Nights turned into days. Years turned into eternity.”
Knight described her friendship with fellow kidnapping victim, Gina DeJesus.
“Gina was my teammate,” she said. “She never let me fall. I never let her fall. She nursed me back to health when I was dying from his abuse, My friendship with her was the only thing that was good out of this situation.”
“We said we would someday make it out alive, and we did,” she said.
Castro had pleaded guilty last week to 937 counts as part of a deal to avoid the death penalty. During his own remarks, he implored the judge to be lenient, arguing he was not a “monster” as others claimed he was, but a “sick” man with a history of abuse and a sexual addition.
The judge rejected Castro’s account, telling him he was the “victimizer,” not the victim, before sentencing him to life without parole.
A series of witnesses called by the prosecution testified to Castro’s treatment of the women, sharing the victims’ experiences of being sexually assaulted and chained, and how the women were malnourished and gaunt when rescued.
Frank Ochberg, a clinical professor of psychiatry and acclaimed psychiatrist said that, despite the victims’ emotional strength, they would be forever impacted by the trauma they suffered at Castro’s hands.
“They have life sentences,” he said. ”They have a good chance to have a good life, but that doesn’t mean that they will ever be free of the damage that was done.”