Ohio governor honors imprisoned Cleveland women
By JULIE CARR SMYTH and ANN SANNER, Associated Press
MEDINA, Feb. 24, 2014 (AP): The three women who survived a
decade-long captivity in a Cleveland house before being freed
received Ohio Gov. John Kasich's annual courage awards
on Monday night.
Kasich called the women's story one of hurt beyond imagination,
but also a story that didn't end there.
``It is also a story of three women who found an inner strength
and a courage that brought them through and sustained them,''
Kasich said near the end of his annual State of the State
speech. ``No one rescued them, they rescued themselves—first by
staying strong and by sticking together, and then by literally
breaking out into freedom.''
The women were freed when one of them pushed her way through a
door and sought help.
The presentation nearly overshadowed Kasich's speech given the
women's popularity since their release. They were household
names in Cleveland for years as missing persons, and their
discovery electrified a community accustomed to bleaker
Kasich hugged the women as he entered the hall before his speech
and pictures of that moment quickly flew across cyberspace.
As he announced the awards, Kasich called them ``three
extraordinary women, who despite having the worst in this world
thrown at them, rose above it and emerged not as victims, but as
The women—Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesús, and Michelle
Knight—walked onto the stage to be embraced by the governor
and receive their medals. The audience stood and cheered for
more than two minutes, the longest ovation of the night. It was
a rare case of the trio being together following their rescue.
The women were rescued in May after being kidnapped by Ariel
Castro from the streets of Cleveland between 2002 and 2004 at
the ages of 14, 16, and 20.
Castro periodically kept them chained in rooms, sometimes in the
basement, and restricted access to food and toilets. He fathered
a girl with one of the victims.
Castro pleaded guilty in August to hundreds of charges. He told
a judge at sentencing that he suffered from addictions to sex
and pornography. ``I'm not a monster. I'm sick,'' he said.
month later, on Sept. 3, the 53-year-old Castro hanged himself
in prison at the beginning of a life sentence plus 1,000 years.
Associated Press writer Andrew Welsh-Huggins contributed to this
report from Columbus.