The family of Michelle Knight, the eldest of three Ohio women found alive Monday after being kidnapped a decade ago, says authorities did not take reports of Knight's disappearance seriously.
Knight was last seen at the age of 21 in 2002, according to the Plain Dealer, near a cousin's home in Cleveland. Police now believe she was kidnapped and locked in the home of Cleveland man Ariel Castro, where she and two other victims, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, were held and sexually abused for around 10 years.
Deborah Knight, Michelle's grandmother, told The Plain Dealer that police and social workers concluded that her granddaughter had simply left on her own because she was angry her son had been taken out of her custody.
Michelle Knight's mother, Barbara Knight, says she never felt their conclusion was convincing, and did not believe her daughter would simply vanish without so much as a phone call.
Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba admitted to NBC Tuesday that while the department had poured resources into the search for Berry and Dejesus -- who disappeared in 2003 and 2004, respectively -- Knight was "the focus of very few tips."
Despite a lack of police support, Barbara Knight said she continued to plaster Cleveland's West Side with missing posters. The mother moved to Florida about a year and a half ago, CNN reported, but would often come back to Cleveland to continue her search.
Barbara Knight told The Plain Dealer her daughter loved school, had many friends, and planned on becoming a veterinarian. However, at the age of 17, Michelle was assaulted at school, and her reports were not taken seriously. The teen became pregnant shortly thereafter and dropped out of school, though she planned to eventually return. The woman lost custody of her son, her mother said, after getting into a relationship with an abusive man who injured the boy.
The missing persons report filed in 2002 notes that Michelle Knight had a mental condition that made her easily confused by her surroundings, according to News Net 5.
A cousin, Brenda Dinickle, said that Michelle Knight had "the mind of a child," according to the New York Post.
Barbara Knight also told The Plain Dealer that she fears police have incorrectly identified her daughter, as false reports have surfaced in the past.
"I'm praying that if it is her, she will come back with me so I can help her recover from what she has been through," Knight said. "So much has happened in these ten years. She has a younger sister she still has not met. I missed her so much while she was gone."
The mother told WKYC she has had limited interaction with investigators, and has not yet been able to speak with her daughter, who is still in the hospital.
"I just wanted to hear her voice.. just let me know that's her," she said to the station.
Michelle Knight's younger brother, Freddie, saw his sister at the hospital Monday, according to WOIO.
He told the station that he and his twin sister, whose name has not been released, were abused by their family and that their mother, Barbara, abandoned him in a dumpster years ago.
Freddie Knight also says he did not even know his sister had been missing until she was found. "I was freaking happy as hell, because I didn't know my sister was kidnapped," he said, according to the Post. "My mom never tells me anything."
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