Cleveland victim shuns family visits

Copy of MDF57366 REUTERS Neighbour Sandra Guisao laughs with Deborah Knight, grandmother of Michelle Knight, outside her Cleveland, Ohio, home as Guisao's daughter Licy Rosa and her daughter Cecilia Rosa, 1, look on.

Cleveland - Michelle Knight, the longest-held captive in a dungeon-like Cleveland house, is free after 11 years. But she remains hospitalised and is shunning visits from relatives, some of whom thought she was a runaway when she vanished.

Knight, 32, was in good condition on Thursday at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland after her rescue on Monday from a house that became her prison for more than a decade.

Neither Knight’s grandmother nor her mother, who moved to Florida but flew back to Cleveland this week, have seen her. “No, we haven’t – on her request. She does not want to be seen by family,” Deborah Knight, the grandmother, said.

One of Michelle’s two brothers, Freddie Knight, visited his sister in hospital after the three women were found. The women were held inside the home except for two occasions when they were taken to a garage on the small property.

“Her skin was white as a ghost,” said Freddie. “She told me she was excited to start a new life.”

He has since spoken to her once by phone, but said he would leave her alone at the request of the hospital.

Ariel Castro, a 52-year-old former school bus driver, was charged on Wednesday with kidnapping Knight, Amanda Berry, 27, and Gina DeJesus, 23, and a six-year-old girl who was born in captivity. He was also charged with raping the three women.

The other captives were discharged from the hospital on Tuesday, and returned to family homes on Wednesday. But Knight required additional medical care.

A police report said Knight had suffered at least five miscarriages that Castro is accused of having intentionally caused by starving her for weeks and beating her in the abdomen. Based on this, an Ohio prosecutor said that he intended to seek aggravated murder charges against Castro, which could carry the death penalty if he is convicted.

The prosecutor’s office would launch the official process to determine if the death penalty is appropriate, Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty said.

“Capital punishment must be reserved for those crimes that are truly the worst examples of human conduct,” McGinty said.

McGinty said assembling charges against Castro could take time, considering the ordeals the victims experienced.

Knight was a 20-year-old single mother when she vanished in 2002 after losing a custody battle with child welfare authorities over her son, who was about three or four years old, her grandmother said.

“They took him and she went out and took off and never came back,” said the grandmother, noting the family believed she had run away.

Knight’s mother filed a missing persons report after she disappeared.

Victim advocacy groups were organising a balloon release in Knight’s honour.

“We want to let her know she is not alone,” the groups said.

– Reuters


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