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Michelle Knight wanted to kiss the ground after rescue from Castro 'hellhole'

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 7:07 PM EST, Wed November 6, 2013
  • Michelle Knight describes the dramatic police rescue that freed her
  • "I wanted to...thank God for letting me get out of that hellhole," Knight tells Dr. Phil
  • Knight recounts the day she delivered Amanda Berry's baby inside Castro's home
  • "I was a girl that couldn't be broken, a girl that couldn't be underestimated," she says

(CNN) -- Michelle Knight squeezes her eyes shut and cries as she listens to the 911 call that led police to rescue her from the house where Ariel Castro held her hostage for more than a decade.

In the recording, fellow captive Amanda Berry begs police to come quickly, before Castro gets home.

"Help me, I'm Amanda Berry," she says. "I've been kidnapped and I've been missing for 10 years. And I'm here, I'm free now."

That frantic call six months ago finally brought authorities to the Cleveland home where Berry, Knight and Gina DeJesus had been Castro's prisoners.

The moment when police rescued them, Knight recalled in an interview broadcast Wednesday on the syndicated "Dr. Phil" talk show, was a "roller coaster of mixed emotion."

"I wanted to kiss the ground that I was walking on and thank God for letting me get out of that hellhole," Knight told host Dr. Phil McGraw.

But Knight wiped away tears as she listened to the 911 call Berry made after escaping on May 6.

It makes her sad, she told McGraw, because of what Berry left out when she called for help from a neighbor's house.

"She didn't mention us," Knight said.

'Finally being heard'

Castro lured Knight into his vehicle from a Family Dollar store in Cleveland in 2002, promising to give her a ride. She endured more than a decade of torture, rape, starvation and beatings, held captive inside his home.

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 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.

Knight was Castro's first victim, and her interview with "Dr. Phil," which aired Tuesday and Wednesday, marks the most detailed remarks any of the women have made publicly so far about their experience.

It provides a detailed glimpse into some of the horrors she suffered, her relationships with the other women, and the day when she got her first taste of freedom after 11 years in captivity.

'We thought somebody was breaking in'

It started when she heard a pounding sound coming from downstairs, Knight told McGraw.

Castro had gone out for the day, Knight recalled. He told them he was going to visit his mother, then buy them some food.

Police were outside, trying to get in after Berry's 911 call. But at the time, Knight says, she thought robbers were coming in and she asked DeJesus to turn down the radio.

"So we're hiding, because we're scared. We're terrified. We didn't know that the cops were down there," Knight said. "We thought somebody was breaking in, because it was a bad neighborhood. So we're sitting there hiding behind a dresser."

Knight says she heard an officer shout, "Police!" But she still didn't feel safe -- until she saw a badge.

"I just ran," she recalled. "I jumped on her (the officer) and I never let go."

Knight returns to Cleveland house where she was held for 11 years

'I had to help him drill holes in a wall'

Since their release, accounts have depicted Knight as someone who cared for the other victims during their captivity while also enduring great suffering herself.

Castro, Knight told McGraw, would tell her of his plans to abduct other women.

"I begged him not to bring any more there to suffer the hell I went through," Knight said.

But it wasn't long before Knight learned that she wasn't the only captive.

In 2003, Castro abducted Berry and brought her to the house. The next year, he kidnapped DeJesus.

Knight said Castro made her get ready for DeJesus' arrival.

"He was telling me that I needed to help him prepare another room," Knight told McGraw, "and I didn't want to prepare that room. ... I had to help him drill holes in a wall, to put the chains through, to hook us together."

The two quickly developed a close bond, Knight said. When Castro tried to abuse DeJesus, Knight said she often stepped in.

"He went to hit her and I would stop him and take the hit," she said. "I would jump in front of her. ... I know how it feels to be hurt, and I didn't want her to go through that."

Delivering Berry's baby

Asked by McGraw how she feels about Berry, Knight said, "We're OK. Not the best of friends, but OK."

She described the day when Castro forced her to help deliver Berry's baby in a swimming pool.

"He told me if the baby didn't come out alive, that he would blame me," Knight said. "And at that moment when the baby didn't come out breathing, I knew if I didn't get her to breathe, that he would kill me right then and there."

Knight said she laid the baby on its back, started doing compressions on her chest and breathed into her mouth.

"Five minutes later," Knight said, "she started screaming."

Knight said she became pregnant herself at least five times while in Castro's home. Each time, she said, Castro beat her brutally until she miscarried.

"Every time got worse than the other," she told McGraw. "By the third time that I got pregnant, it was kicking, jumping on my stomach, like if I was a bed."

Castro, Knight said, "didn't want a girl like me to have a kid."

"I was a girl that couldn't be broken, a girl that couldn't be underestimated," Knight said. "When he figured out he couldn't control me very much, he didn't want to give me a kid."

A troubled past

During Knight's time in captivity, her case got less media attention than the disappearances of Berry and DeJesus, whose family members posted fliers and held candlelight vigils for them.

That was something that Castro never let her forget, Knight said.

"The first thing he'll say to me, 'Where's your family? Why don't you have any? They must not really love you.' And it would hurt, 'cause I knew my family didn't care, and I knew they weren't there for me," Knight said.

Knight's grandmother, Deborah Knight, told The Plain Dealer in May that the family had concluded that Michelle had left of her own accord because she was angry that she had lost custody of her then-2-year-old son. That conclusion was supported by police and social workers, she told the newspaper.

Her mother, Barbara Knight, issued a statement to the "Dr. Phil" show.

"Michelle, my daughter, has been the victim of long-term and profound and unspeakable torture. Her point of view has been altered by that monster and what he did to her," the statement said. "What I have heard that she said about me breaks my heart. That is because what she now believes, while not true, increases her pain. I love my daughter. I always have and always will. I pray that someday she will heal enough to know that again."

CNN's Michael Pearson, Martin Savidge, Pamela Brown and Chelsea J. Carter contributed to this report.

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