Ariel Castro sentencing: Victim impact statements by Michelle Knight, relatives of Berry, DeJesus

CLEVELAND - Seymour survivor Michelle Knight gave a highly emotional, tearful victim impact statement during Ariel Castro's sentencing Thursday.

The woman, held captive the longest in Castro's Seymour Avenue home, directed some of her statements at her former captor.

"You took 11 years of my life away, and now I have it back," she told the court, before continuing with, "I spent 11 years in hell, and now yours is just beginning."

Another statement referred to her helplessness while in captivity saying, "Days never got shorter. Days turned into nights, nights turned into days, years turned into eternity."

Knight also spoke of the friendship forged with fellow victim, Gina DeJesus. "My friendship with her was all that was good about the situation. We said someday we'd make it out alive, and we did."

Prior to Knight, relatives of Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry also spoke. DeJesus's cousin, Sylvia Colon, promised the court that Gina is improving, and doing regular things such as laughing, dancing, swimming and being loved.

She addressed Castro personally, in Spanish, before sitting down.

Berry's sister, Beth Serrano, then addressed the judge. She made a plea for Berry's daughter's privacy and safety, saying, "Amanda could not control anything for a long time. Can she have control over this?"

Michelle Knight statement:

My name is Michelle Knight. I missed my son every day.   I wondered if I was ever going to see him again. He was only 2 1/'2 when I was taken. I look inside my heart and I see my son and I cried every night. I was so alone. I worried about what would happen to me and the girls every day. Years turn into eternity. I knew no one cared about me. I knew my family don't care. Christmas was a most traumatic day because I could not spend it with my son.  

Gina was my teammate. she never let me fall.. and I never let her fall. My friendship to her was the only thing good out of this situation. We said some day we would make it out alive and we did. Ariel Castro, I remember all the times you came home .. and talked about other things and said at least I didn't kill you.  You took 11 years of my life away and I have got it back. I spent 11 years in hell and now your hell is just beginning. I will overcome this. From this moment on, I won't let this affect me. I will live and you will die a little every day as you think about it.

What does God think about you going to church every Sunday and coming home to torture us?

You deserve to spend life in prison. I can forgive you but won't forget.   In writing this statement gave me the strength to be a stronger woman. I know there is more good than evil.  A lot of people go thru hard times and we need to reach out to help them. I'm finally being heard and it's liberating. Thanks to you all and God bless you.

Gina DeJesus represented by cousin Sylvia Colon:

"We would like to thank the honored judge Michael Russo, prosecutor McGinty and staff, along with defense team for an accelerated resolution to the Ariel Castro case. Today, we will close this case. To family: We love you, to neighbors, police, FBI and attorneys, the great City of Cleveland and too many others to name, thank you and God bless you.

To the Castro family – we do not hold you accountable and pray you can one day be whole again.

Our family recognizes it is not for us to judge- only a higher power can do that.

Today is the last day we want to think or talk about this. These events will not hold a place in our hearts. We will continue to live and love. Our beloved family member thrives, she laughs, swims, she will finish school, go to college and fall in love if she chooses… will marry and have children if she chooses.

She lives not as a victim but as a survivor. We ask that you continue to give her and our family privacy. To Ariel Castro…(faces Castro) ….in Spanish… ‘May God have mercy on your soul."

Amanda Berry represented by her sister Beth Serrano :

"Hi. My name is Beth Serrano. I am Amanda Berry's sister. The impact of these crimes on our family is something that we don't want to discuss with people we don't know.

Even if I wanted to talk about it, it is impossible to put into words. For me, I lost my sister for all those years, and I thought it was forever.

And I lost my mother forever. She died not knowing. My mother and sister were the two most loving people in the world. It is impossible to put into words how much it hurts.

Amanda is not here today. She is strong, beautiful-inside and out, and is doing better every day. She is not just my only sister, but the best friend I have; the best person I know. She does not want to talk about these things, she has not talked about them even to me. She does not want others to talk about these things.

The main reason she does not want anyone to talk about the things or be forced to talk about these things is because she has a young daughter. She would love to be the person who decides to tell her daughter, when to tell her daughter, how to tell her daughter, the certain things. When people say things, it is written and talked about by people we don't know. Amanda's concern is that her daughter will hear about things or read about things said by the wrong people, the wrong way, at the wrong time, before Amanda thinks the time is right to tell her daughter.

My sister has asked me to say the same thing she has said since this case started. Please respect her privacy, she does not want other people to talk or write about what happened.

Now that there will be no trial, there doesn't seem to be any reason at all that people cannot do what she asks. Amanda did not control anything for a long time, please let her have control over this so she can protect her daughter. She will do anything to protect her daughter.

She also asks me to say that she is grateful that this case is over. She wanted to say thank you to the people who have supported her, our family, including James (other names) and everyone at the Jones Day Law Firm. The FBI, the Cleveland Police, the DeJesus family, the entire community and everyone else who continued to stand by our side. We appreciate everyone's support and kindness. Thank you.

Statement from Kathy Joseph, attorney for Michelle Knight:

"Michelle is a warrior who has survived a long and brutal war.  She has emerged strong, courageous and determined.  Her optimistic outlook is remarkable.  Her resiliency and compassion are a testament to the strength of the human spirit and an inspiration to all of us who have come to know her."

Statement from Jim Wooley, attorney for Amanda Berry and her family:

"Everyone should have a sister like Beth Serrano.  Everyone should have a sister like Amanda Berry.  And everyone should have a mother like Amanda Berry.  I see nothing but sunny days ahead for this family.

I have literally run out of words to describe how remarkable Amanda, Beth and their family are.  When I say they are perhaps the toughest, strongest, most resilient people I have ever known, it still feels like a huge understatement.  Add to the mix the warmth, kindness and love in that household, and you're talking about something beyond perfect, beyond words.

I feel humbled and privileged that I know them."

Statement from Henry Hilow, attorney for Gina DeJesus and her family:
"Gina is a survivor who is surrounded by a devoted family.  Through the years, her parents, Felix and Nancy, never surrendered to hopelessness.  Her parents knew there would be a day when Gina would return home.  On May 6, 2013, their faith prevailed and their prayers were answered.

Gina and the DeJesus family want to thank the public and media for protecting their privacy and trust that their privacy will continue to be respected throughout the healing process.  They are humbled by the love and generosity of the community.

Love is one of life's greatest gifts.  Gina's return home, into the loving arms of her family, is an immeasurable blessing.  It is priceless."

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