Three missing women thank Cleveland for its support, prayers

July 9, 2013 at 7:26 AM
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CLEVELAND, July 9 (UPI) -- The three women held captive for a decade in Cleveland thanked the community for its prayers and support after their escape.

The women seemed upbeat and two talked about moving on in the 4-minute video shot July 2 and released at midnight, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported Tuesday.

"I may have been through hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face and with my head held high and with my feet firmly on the ground," said Michelle Knight, the longest-held of the women. "Walking hand in hand with my best friend, I will not let the situation define who I am. I will define the situation."

The women said they appreciate the community's financial assistance as well, with Gina DeJesus' mother, Nancy Ruiz, thanking the Cleveland Courage Fund, set up to accept donations to help the women transition from 10 years of captivity to independence.

Amanda Berry said the support was unbelievable.

"Everyone who has been there to support us has been a blessing," she said.

The three women, who spoke separately, did not discuss their current situations, The Plain Dealer said.

James Wooley, an attorney representing Berry and DeJesus, said the women "still have a strong desire for privacy" and didn't wish to discuss their ordeal.

Ariel Castro is accused of kidnapping them and holding them hostage in his Seymour Avenue home.

A 329-count indictment, covering five years of the women's captivity, accuses the 52-year-old Castro of multiple and repeated beatings and rapes. He also is charged with aggravated murder in the termination of a pregnancy.

Knight, now 32, was 21 when she was reported missing in August 2002. Berry, now 27, was 16 when she disappeared in April 2003. DeJesus, now 23, was 14 when she went missing in April 2004.

"I don't want to be consumed by hatred," Knight said in the video. "With that being said, we need to take a leap of faith and know God is in control. God has a plan for all of us. The plan that he gave me is to help others who have been in the same situation I have been in."

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