TODAY'S PAPER
Good Morning
Good Morning
NewsNation

Women in Cleveland kidnap case thank supporters

CLEVELAND

Stylish and smiling, three women allegedly held captive in a Cleveland home for a decade offered thanks on YouTube for emotional and financial backing they've received since going "through hell and back."

From Amanda Berry, 27: "I want everyone to know how happy I am to be home, with my family, my friends."

"I would say 'thank you' for the support," said a soft-spoken Gina DeJesus, 23, in response to prompting from a narrator.

And from Michelle Knight, 32, came a sometimes halting yet defiant reading of a statement.

"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," she said. "I will not let the situation define who I am. I will define the situation. I don't want to be consumed by hatred."

The 31/2-minute video, produced last week and posted at midnight Monday, was filmed at a Cleveland law firm.

DeJesus' parents, Felix DeJesus and Nancy Ruiz, joined the heartfelt statements of gratitude, thanking the public for the more than $1 million in contributions to a fund set up to help the women.

They had disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old.

The owner of the home where they were found, former bus driver Ariel Castro, 52, was arrested and has pleaded not guilty to an indictment alleging he kidnapped them off the streets and held them captive in his two-story home.

Castro's lawyers did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment on the video.

None of the women had visible scars in the video of the abuse they said they had suffered. Castro fathered a 6-year-old daughter with Berry and is accused of starving and punching Knight, causing her to miscarry.

"I am getting stronger each day," Berry said. "Having my privacy has helped immensely."

News Photos and Videos