Amanda Berry’s story: Berry’s kidnapper called her family to torment them

Amanda Berry’s bravery helped save Michelle Knight, Amanda, and Gina DeJesus from a decade of captivity and sexual abuse. On that early May 2013 day, the girls’ captor, Ariel Castro, left Amanda’s door unlocked. After Berry’s daughter, Jocelyn, rushed up saying that Castro had left the house, Amanda seized her chance. 

She found the doors locked, but her desperate pleas forced two neighbors to help. After breaking out, Amanda hurriedly called 911, fearing that Castro would return and harm her on the street. 

“I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for ten years and I’m here; I’m free now,” Amanda told The dispatcher

A day before her seventeenth birthday, Amanda met Ariel Castro and his daughter parked in a driveway. She smiled at them as she recognized Castro’s daughter from school. 

Moments later, Ariel parked beside Amanda and asked whether she wanted a lift. The unsuspecting Amanda readily agreed. Castro then inquired whether Amanda would have liked to see his daughter back at his place. 

After getting into the white house on Seymour Avenue, Castro offered Amanda a house tour as they waited for Castro’s daughter to finish showering. As they passed a bedroom upstairs, Berry caught a glimpse of fellow abductee Michelle Knight. 

Castro then tied Amanda down in the basement. “He taped my wrist and he taped my ankles and he put on a belt around my ankles over the tape,” Amanda told ABC News. “He put a helmet over my head, and he said, ‘Just be quiet and don’t make any noise. And I’ll take you home.”

Berry’s desperate screams attracted no attention. From a TV in the basement, Amanda watched her mom and sister beg for her return. “That kept me going,” she said. “And I said, ‘You know what, I’m going to make it home to you. As long as you fight, I’m going to fight.”

Amanda struggled with life in captivity as Ariel didn’t care much for his captives’ comfort. Castro bought Berry a diary from the store and promised to let her free by the summer. Her first diary entry read:

“You never know what you got ‘til it’s gone! I just can’t wait to go home. I’m 17 now, but don’t have a life. But he told me I’m young and will go home before summer. Another two months!”

A week after her abduction, Ariel called Berry’s family to torment them. Police almost located Berry’s location after the call, but they needed more activity from the phone to pinpoint the location. “We spent about a week, around the clock, in that area, hoping that this phone would be used again,” said FBI agent Tim Kolonik. 

Ariel Castro adopted a reward system in his house. You could get food and a shower, but it came at a price. “I mean, he tried to act nice, but he’s like, ‘Well, maybe you need to go take a shower,’ and I had to take a shower with him,” Amanda explained.

Berry recorded every time Castro raped her. “I felt like, you know, one day maybe authorities will get to read it,” Amanda said. Ariel kept promising that he would release Amanda once he abducted another girl. 

Castro abducted Gina DeJesus, but he didn’t release Amanda. The sexual abuse continued, and Amanda logged everything on any surface she could find – notebooks, napkins, fast food bags – the lot. 

Ariel tortured his captives mentally and physically. He forced Gina and Amanda to watch an episode of America’s Most Wanted featuring their missing person’s case and family interviews. 

The thought of being pregnant terrified Berry: Ariel had violently caused Knight to abort her pregnancies. However, Castro allowed Amanda to carry the pregnancy to term. Berry went into labor in December 2006 and had to give birth in an improvised baby pool. 

Michelle Knight helped Amanda deliver. “Michelle was kind of just talking to me, like, you know, ‘Relax. Calm down. You’re OK.'” Berry said. “And he sat in the rocking chair right there just reading this book about, like, birth and stuff.”

Amanda’s daughter, Jocelyn, became a welcome distraction and inspired a change of behavior in Ariel. Castro occasionally allowed her to play in the backyard, park, or church. However, Amanda worried that Ariel would turn on Jocelyn:

“She loved him, and he loved her,” Amanda said. “I was nervous, like, would he touch her? Would he ever think about touching her because, you know, he had his problems?”

Jocelyn initiated the escape from the girls’ decade-long captivity. “If I’m going to do it, I need to do it now,” Amanda said. Knight wanted to go after Berry, but Gina talked her out of it, believing that Castro had caught Amanda. 

However, Amanda made it out and called the police. “I was terrified,” Amanda said. “And just because there’s people on the street doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t hurt me. I was so terrified. I still don’t know why he left that day with the door unlocked. I will never know.”

Amanda Berry’s mom passed away in 2006, believing her daughter dead. A psychic named Sylvia Browne appeared on The Montel Williams Show and told Berry’s mom that her daughter was dead. 

Berry broke down as she watched the episode from Ariel’s basement. “I just broke down crying because I couldn’t believe she said that,” Berry told 20/20. “And then my mum broke down crying, so that hurt even worse.”

Amanda didn’t reunite with her mom, but she works to reunite missing people with their families. She hosts a segment on FOX 8 titled Missing with Amanda Berry to help find missing people in Northeast Ohio. 

Berry also partnered with the U.S. Marshals Service for the Operation Safety Net. The initiative located 35 missing children in Northeast Ohio within one month. Amanda hopes to be a beacon of hope for anyone searching for a missing loved one. She told Good Morning America:

“I definitely hope that they know that miracles can happen. I know it’s not always easy to you know, year after year, some parents have to go through waiting for their child to come home, but hopefully they take it more serious, that I am involved. I hope that I’m a beacon of hope for them.”

U.S. Marshal Pete Elliot praised Amanda’s effort and initiative, pointing to her as the motivation behind the operation’s success. “We’re doing this all over the country and we’re gonna try to bring back every single kid that we can, together with Amanda Berry,” Pete said. 

Initially, Amanda feared leaving the house and getting noticed. Her perception changed when she realized she could use her voice to do good. Berry said that she works to honor her mother:

“I push every day more and more for my mother. She fought so hard for me while I was gone, and I think now, I’m trying to finish kind of what she started for the missing. A lot has changed since 2003 and I’m just glad that I can be here and continue my mom’s work.”