Two women who were kidnapped and imprisoned in a Cleveland house for more than a decade opened up about their ordeal in a special "20/20" episode Tuesday night. Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus told host Robin Roberts that after their escape in 2013 from the home of Ariel Castro, an acquaintance who kidnapped them in 2002, they were happy and their lives were moving forward.
Berry, now 29, said life was "great" and she's happy being a mother to the daughter she had with Castro. DeJesus, now 25, is in school and has learned to drive.
The women shared their story in the new book Hope: A Memoir of Survival In Cleveland, cowritten with Washington Post reporter Mary Jordan. Berry and DeJesus revealed horrifying and heartbreaking details about the decade they spent as prisoners in Castro’s home, where they were locked in small rooms, chained, starved, raped and beaten by a man they both knew from their community.
Notably absent from Tuesday’s show was Castro's third captive, Michelle Knight. Berry and DeJesus admitted they don’t keep in touch with her but “wish her the best.” Knight, 33, wrote her own memoir last year.
Castro eventually pleaded guilty to 937 criminal counts of rape, kidnapping, and aggravated murder as part of a plea bargain to avoid the death penalty. Sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years with no chance of parole, he hanged himself in his cell after just one month of imprisonment. The home where he held the women has been demolished.
Among the revelations from the interview:
Castro was deeply paranoid
Berry recalled that her baby’s first outfit was one of Castro’s socks with holes cut in it because he was paranoid about being seen buying supplies for the child.
To keep the women locked up, Castro sheared off the bolts on the doors to his captives' rooms and put the hinges behind plexiglass. He wired the front door of the house to an alarm. For years, Berry was tethered to a radiator by a five-foot chain. “Five feet had become the size of my whole world,” she recalled.
The women were basically starved
Castro fed the women one bag of chips or crackers a day each, if he gave them anything.
Berry recalled being shocked she could be pregnant because she "barely ate." One Cleveland police officer told "20/20" he barely recognized DeJesus from her missing persons photo after her rescue because she had lost thirty pounds in captivity.
Castro was a misogynist with a history of violence
“He hated women,” Jordan, who cowrote the memoir, told "20/20." “He beat his last wife so bad, he broke her teeth, broke her bones.”
“His eyes were black,” Berry recalled. “Like he had no soul.”
Berry used codes to keep track of her abuse in case she was ever rescued
Berry said she wrote numbers at the top of the pages in a diary Castro had given her to keep track of how many times he raped her. “I would always write these numbers at the top of the pages, ‘cause I felt like, you know, one day maybe authorities will get to read it," she said. "And he’ll be punished for what he did.”
Castro made DeJesus play Russian Roulette with him
Castro’s emotional torture was just as cruel as his physical abuse. DeJesus said he would play “mind games” and recalled him playing Russian Roulette with her.
Another time, Castro forced the girls to watch an episode of “America’s Most Wanted” about their disappearance.
Berry learned of her mother’s death from the news
Berry recalled her outrage when she saw self-proclaimed psychic Sylvia Browne tell Berry's mother in a 2004 episode of the Montel Williams show that Berry was dead. Berry was “furious” at the psychic, she told Roberts.
Two years after the "Montel" episode, Berry’s mother died from heart failure. Berry had no idea her mother had died until she saw it on TV.
Berry drew strength from seeing Roberts’ Hurricane Katrina coverage
One of the interview's most touching moments came when Berry revealed what she watched on the small TV Castro put in her room. “I watched you,” Berry said, adding she had felt encouraged by the strength Roberts showed in a tearful broadcast during Hurricane Katrina.
Berry’s daughter changed Castro
Berry said that after she gave birth to Castro’s daughter, he seemed to change into a different person.
“She loved him, and he loved her,” Berry said. She also expressed worry over her initial feelings toward the daughter she had with her kidnapper. “She resembled him a lot,” she said.
Castro eventually removed the women’s chains when the 3-year-old — who was also kept captive — began to ask about them. It was also around that time that Castro let the young girl outdoors to play in the sun.
The women are split in their feelings of forgiveness
Berry said she’s thought a lot about forgiving Castro but ultimately determined that she couldn't. “I mean, he took my mom from me," she said. "I’ll never get to see her again."
DeJesus was dismayed Castro hanged himself because “she wanted him to suffer,” she said. His suicide was “the easy way out.”
But she has found a way to move on. “You have to forgive in order to move on with your life,” she said.
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