CLEVELAND — Three women rescued from a house a decade after they disappeared said Sunday that they are happy to be home and pleaded for privacy so they can heal and reconnect with their family.
An attorney for the women also said they are extremely grateful for the support of family, law enforcement and the community.
Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight remain in seclusion and released their first statements since they were found May 6 after Berry escaped and called 911.
Ariel Castro is suspected of imprisoning the women inside his house for nine years or more, allowing them outside only a few moments, and raping them. A DNA test also confirmed that Castro fathered a 6-year-old girl who Berry gave birth to in the house. The girl escaped the house with Berry.
Castro is being held on $8 million bond. The 52-year-old former school bus driver was charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape.
The women, now in their 20s and 30s, vanished separately between 2002 and 2004. At the time, they were 14, 16 and 20 years old.
Attorney Jim Wooley read statements attributed to all three women.
Knight, who was the first to disappear and the last of the three released from the hospital, said, “Thank you to everyone for your support and good wishes. I am healthy, happy and safe and will reach out to family, friends and supporters in good time.”
Berry added: “Thank you so much for everything you’re doing and continue to do. I am so happy to be home with my family.”
And DeJesus, the youngest of the three, said: “I am so happy to be home, and I want to thank everybody for all your prayers. I just want time now to be with my family.”
The Associated Press does not usually identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault, but the women’s names were widely circulated by their families, friends and law enforcement authorities for years during their disappearances and after they were found.
The attorney for the women said none of them will do any media interviews until the criminal case against Castro is over. He also asked that they be given privacy.
“Give them the time, the space, and the privacy so that they can continue to get stronger,” Wooley said.
Castro was represented at his first court appearance Thursday by public defender Kathleen Demetz, who said she can’t speak to his guilt or innocence and advised him not to give any media interviews that might jeopardize his case.
Castro’s two brothers, who were initially taken into custody but released Thursday after investigators said there was no evidence against them, told CNN that they fear people still believe they had something to do with the three missing women.
Onil and Pedro Castro said they’ve been getting death threats even after police decided to release them. Pedro Castro said he would have turned in his brother if he had known he was involved in the women’s disappearance.
“Brother or no brother,” he told CNN.