Over a decade ago, Michelle Knight put on shorts and a white tee shirt, and left her home to visit her cousin. Though she had a small mental disorder that caused her to sometimes be disoriented, her family wasn’t concerned. Michelle was involved in a custody battle for her son, and was troubled, but her cousin’s home was close by, and there was little concern for her safety. She was just 21 years old.
Rescued from a decade of cruel and even hideous incarceration, the whereabouts and concern about Michelle’s well-being today may be related to her life before her horrendous imprisonment.
The third of the women rescued from a dilapidated home in Cleveland may have serious problems that conflict with her reintegration into a semblance of normal life. Police documents and media reports offer a glimpse of a woman whose past appeared troubled even before her kidnapping, and whose decade in slavery might have been appalling even beyond the measure of her fellow captives.
Michelle was the first captive taken in 2002. Her family felt that she had just “walked away”. Her family and the FBI believed she was a runaway.
Psychologists now believe that when Amanda Berry was kidnapped at age 16, and Gina DeJesus at 14, Michelle became the “other captive” to Castro. Michelle, at age 21, was placed in a new category.
Knight’s past was fraught with pain and suffering. She had been raped several times in high school, and became pregnant. She subsequently left school.
After Michelle had the child, a boy she named ‘Joey’, she returned to her mother, Barbara’s, home. Her mother’s abusive boyfriend broke her young son’s arm, and reportedly raped Michelle, though no charges were filed.
Her grandmother, Deborah, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that she came to believe that her granddaughter had simply chosen to disappear.
Michelle was involved in a custody battle that might have involved abuse. Cleveland’s WOIO-TV reports that records show a man named David Feckley “was charged and convicted in the early 2000s of child endangerment, for breaking Michelle’s infant son’s arm. He served eight years in prison. But a rape charge was dropped when the alleged victim, Michelle, couldn’t be found. Of course, now we know where she was.”
Michelle was the most abused of the three young women held captive for over a decade by Ariel Castro in a poor residential area of Cleveland. Reports say she had five miscarriages caused by physically violent actions by Castro. She was also forced to deliver Amanda Berry’s baby in a child’s wading pool, under threats that if the baby died, he would kill her as well. When the baby stopped breathing after birth, Michelle gave her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and assuredly saved both their lives.
An anonymous source says that Michelle, now 32, is in a safe place. If that is true, it may be for the first time in her life.
The Guardian Express