Who Is Amanda Berry?
Amanda Berry vanished one night in Cleveland in 2003, right before turning 17. She was held prisoner by Ariel Castro, suffering abuse at his hands for more than 10 years. She escaped in May 2013 and was able to get help to rescue the other two victims, Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus. The women's harrowing ordeal made the case a media sensation.
Early Life and Kidnapping
Berry was born on April 22, 1986, and grew up in the Cleveland, Ohio area. As a teen, Berry had secured work at a local Burger King, but one night inexplicably vanished walking home from the job. She had last been seen on April 21, 2003, the day before she turned 17. It would later be revealed that a man, Castro, had lured her into his vehicle.
Berry was listed as a missing person, with her mother Louwana Miller agitating for there to be more coverage concerning her daughter's disappearance and dispelling any notions that Berry had run away. Miller died with her daughter still missing.
Then, on the evening of May 6, 2013 — a decade after her disappearance — Berry appeared in the doorway of 2207 Seymour Avenue screaming for help. Angelo Cordero and Charles Ramsey came to her aid, with the two men later offering conflicting accounts of their involvement, and helped Berry break through the door of the house. A 6-year-old child accompanied Berry as well.
Berry found shelter nearby and called 911, stating, "Help me, I'm Amanda Berry. ... I've been kidnapped and I've been missing for 10 years, and I'm, I'm here. I'm free now." Two other women who had vanished years ago, DeJesus and Knight, were being held as well and were rescued that evening by Cleveland police forces who arrived at the house.
Reunited With Family
Berry and DeJesus were reunited with their families on May 8, 2013, and Berry's sister Beth Serrano made a public statement thanking well-wishers. At that time, Knight was still hospitalized. The Cleveland Courage Fund was set up to provide resources for the trio of women.
Police soon arrested Castro, 52, the owner of the Seymour property who was out drinking when Berry made her escape. Castro reportedly kept the women chained in the basement of the home for long periods of time, that they had almost never left the property and that they generally endured horrifying treatment. Berry had a daughter, Jocelyn (the 6-year-old child who accompanied her at the time of her escape), while being held captive, and a paternity test conducted after her escape proved that Castro was the father.
With his siblings arrested as well but not brought up on any charges, Castro was formally accused of kidnapping Berry, DeJesus and Knight and of keeping them hostage at his Cleveland home. He was indicted on 329 charges, including 177 counts of kidnapping, 139 counts of rape and two counts of aggravated murder for forcing abortions.
Late that July, Castro pleaded guilty to kidnapping and raping Berry, Knight and DeJesus. He entered this plea to avoid the death penalty. On August 1, Castro was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years without the possibility of parole. Berry did not attend the hearing, but her fellow victim Knight was present. Before his sentence was announced, she told Castro, "I spent 11 years of hell. Now your hell is just beginning," according to a Reuters news report.
Berry's sister, Beth Serrano, also spoke at Castro's sentencing hearing. She described how her sister "doesn't want to talk about" the abuse she suffered at Castro's hands and she is trying to focus on protecting her daughter.
Castro was found dead in his prison cell on September 3, 2013. He had hanged himself with a bedsheet.
While Knight pursued her own path in the years that followed their release, Berry and DeJesus grew closer from their shared ordeal. They teamed up to publish Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland in April 2015, shortly before the saga was revisited with the Lifetime movie Cleveland Abduction. In late May, they received honorary diplomas together from John Marshall High School.
Describing the simple joys of her everyday experiences to ABC News around this time, Berry said, "I can walk outside when I want. I can take my daughter to school. I can go to my friend's house. I can eat what I want, I can watch what I want. We just have a bright future, and [will] see what comes."
Along with her devotion to raising Jocelyn, Berry has sought to help other families of kidnapping victims by hosting a missing persons segment on a local news station.
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