From left, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight in composite image taken from screengrabs of a video released by the women that was their first public statements since being freed in early May 2013 from a horrific kidnapping ordeal in Cleveland, Ohio. (Credit: CBS)
Three women held captive in a Cleveland home for a decade issued a YouTube video Monday night in which they thanked the public for the encouragement and financial support that is allowing them to restart their lives.
Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight broke their public silence in the 3-minute, 30-second video posted at midnight. They said the support and prayers of family, friends and the public is allowing them rebuild their lives after what Berry called "this entire ordeal."
The women had gone missing separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16, and 20 years old. Cleveland resident Ariel Castro has pleaded not guilty to a 329-count indictment alleging he kidnapped them off the streets and held them captive in his two-story home.
The 52-year-old former bus driver fathered a 6-year-old daughter with Berry and is accused of starving and punching Knight, causing her to miscarry. He was arrested May 6, shortly after Berry broke through a door at the home and yelled to neighbors for help.
Knight said in the video, filmed July 2, that she is building a "brand new life."
"I may have been through hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face and my head held high," she said, reading from a prepared statement. "I will not let the situation define who I am. I will define the situation. I don't want to be consumed by hatred."
Berry said, "I'm getting stronger each day, and having my privacy has helped immensely. I ask that everyone continue to respect our privacy and give us time to have a normal life."
DeJesus' parents, Felix DeJesus and Nancy Ruiz, thanked the public for donations to a fund set up to help the women. In addition, Ruiz encouraged parents with missing loved ones to reach out for assistance. "Count on your neighbors," she said. "Don't be afraid to ask for the help because help is available."
Kathy Joseph, an attorney for Knight, said in a statement that the three women wanted to "say thank you to people from Cleveland and across the world, now that two months have passed."
She said they're being recognized in public, "so they decided to put voices and faces to their heartfelt messages."
James Wooley, attorney for Berry and DeJesus, also issued a statement saying Knight and his clients thank people for the privacy they've been given and do not want to discuss their case with the news media or anyone else.
In reporting on the video, CBS Cleveland affiliate WOIO-TV offered a timeline of events surrounding the three women.
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