Michelle Knight remembers the warning, the one captor Ariel Castro delivered while wrapping a chain around her neck and shackling her to a metal pole in the basement of his Cleveland home.
“Now, if I do it too tight and you don’t make it, that means you wasn’t meant to stay here. That means God wanted to take you,” Castro said, according to Knight, who spoke to Dr. Phil McGraw in the second part of an exclusive interview set to air on his syndicated television show beginning Tuesday afternoon.
Castro abducted Knight from a Cleveland street in 2002, making her the first of three women he would capture and imprison in his home for about a decade. They were freed in May after one of the women, Amanda Berry, called out to neighbors for help.
Knight endured a horrific captivity: rapes, starvation and beatings meant to end multiple pregnancies, being “tied up like a fish,” she says, like “an ornament on the wall.”
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She sometimes spent days in the basement, she told McGraw, chained to the pole, unable to lie down and with a motorcycle helmet over her head. The helmet made it hard to breathe, she said, “and later on I didn’t remember a thing ’cause I had passed out.”
Knight also says Castro taped her mouth shut with duct tape, according to another excerpt posted on the show’s YouTube channel. And she tells McGraw she once picked a lock to try to escape, drawing an ominous warning from Castro: “Now you’re gonna be punished.”
Knight told McGraw that she didn’t always fight back, though, at least not at first.
She said she was in shock after being taken and all she could do was cry and beg him to let her go back to her son.
He threw money at her.
“He was obsessed with prostitutes, and also he thought I was a 13-year-old prostitute,” she said. “When he found out my real age, he got mad.”
Knight, 32, was 21 years old when she was reported missing in 2002.
In August, Castro was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years after he pleaded guilty to 937 counts, including murder and kidnapping. He committed suicide in his prison cell in September.
Knight, Berry and the third woman, Gina DeJesus, have since been trying to readjust to life as free women. Knight, whose disappearance generated the least public notice of the three, has been the most outspoken.
“After 11 years, I am finally being heard, and it’s liberating,” she said in a powerful statement at Castro’s sentencing describing the abuse she endured.
“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,” she told Castro. “I will overcome all this that happened, but you will face hell for eternity.”
When crews demolished the 1,400-square-foot house where Castro held them captive, Knight was there, handing out yellow balloons to onlookers.
She said she was at the demolition site in part to remind relatives of abducted children that all is not necessarily lost.
“I want the people out there to know — including the mothers — that they can have strength, they can have hope, and their child will come back,” she said.
Since their release, accounts have depicted Knight as someone who cared for the other victims during their captivity while also enduring great suffering herself.
A family friend of one of the victims said this year that Castro used Knight as his main “punching bag.”
The friend said Castro hit Knight with a variety of objects, including hand weights. She has suffered vision loss, joint and muscle damage, and other problems from her time in captivity.
According to an initial incident report obtained by CNN, Knight said she became pregnant at least five times while in Castro’s home.
When that happened, she told investigators, Castro “starved her for at least two weeks, then he repeatedly punched her in the stomach until she miscarried.”
Knight said that when Berry became pregnant, Castro ordered her to deliver the fellow captive’s child, according to a police source familiar with the investigation.
“It’s astounding to me that she had the strength that she did,” McGraw said on “Anderson Cooper 360˚” on Monday. “She says that she was referred to as the unbreakable one. She fought him every step of the way.”
Watch the full two-part interview with Michelle Knight on Dr. Phil, Tuesday, November 5 and Wednesday, November 6 at 4 p.m. on KRON 4.
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