After being imprisoned in Ariel Castro's home for a decade, Amanda Berry escaped her kidnapper in 2013 — and freed his other victims, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight.
On May 6, 2013, a kidnapping victim named Amanda Berry made a miraculous escape from the home of her captor, Ariel Castro. She had been abducted by Castro 10 years earlier, and had been subjected to horrific torture and rape the entire time she was in captivity. Berry feared that she’d be trapped in Castro’s Cleveland house forever — until one day, Castro accidentally left one of his doors unlocked and another door open.
Castro’s mistakes allowed the 26-year-old Berry to free not only herself but also two other young women that Castro had kidnapped and imprisoned, Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus. In addition, Berry was able to free her six-year-old daughter Jocelyn, who had been fathered by Castro.
Cleveland police were stunned to hear Berry’s frantic 911 call after her escape: “Help me, please! I’m Amanda Berry… I’ve been kidnapped! I’ve been missing for 10 years, and I’m here, and I’m free now!” Since she was just 16 when she initially disappeared, many had long assumed she was dead.
This is Amanda Berry’s incredible survival story.
The Abduction And 10-Year Imprisonment Of Amanda Berry
Amanda Marie Berry was born on April 22, 1986, and grew up in the Cleveland, Ohio area. By the time she was a teenager, she had gotten a job at a local Burger King. But one day, she didn’t return home from work.
On April 21, 2003, just one day before her 17th birthday, Amanda Berry vanished while walking home from Burger King. It was later revealed that a school bus driver named Ariel Castro had lured her into his car by saying that his daughter — an old friend of Berry’s — was at his house.
Berry thought that she would have a nice reunion with her friend at Castro’s home. Instead, Castro chained her up, promising her that if she was quiet he would take her home. From there, her decade of captivity began.
Meanwhile, Berry’s mother, Louwana Miller, quickly reported her daughter missing and frantically asked the police to help find her. In the initial stages of the investigation, authorities considered Berry a runaway. However, the case took a disturbing turn a week after her disappearance when an unidentified man used her cell phone to contact her mother.
The caller stated, “I have Amanda. She’s fine and will be coming home in a couple of days.” This call led authorities to believe that Berry was not a runaway. It also heightened Miller’s concerns for her daughter’s safety — and made her all the more determined to bring her home.
But despite Miller’s efforts to keep her daughter’s name in the media, Berry remained a prisoner in Castro’s home. Castro regularly subjected Berry to brutal physical, sexual, and emotional abuse in captivity. But she wasn’t the only one who suffered unspeakable horrors at his hands.
By the time Castro abducted Berry, he had already kidnapped 21-year-old Michelle Knight about a year earlier. And then about one year after Berry’s abduction, Castro also kidnapped 14-year-old Gina DeJesus. All three victims suffered greatly from Castro’s abuse. But since Knight became pregnant multiple times from Castro’s rapes, she suffered particularly severe injuries during her pregnancies — because he beat her until she miscarried.
Surprisingly, when Berry became pregnant a few years into her captivity, Castro decided that she would have the baby. Berry ended up giving birth to her daughter Jocelyn on Christmas Day in 2006. The baby was born in an inflatable pool and delivered with Knight’s assistance.
Berry instantly knew if she ever got the chance to escape Castro’s home, she would never leave without her daughter — and her fellow captives.
Amanda Berry’s Daring Escape From Ariel Castro
On May 6, 2013, Amanda Berry’s opportunity for freedom finally came. Ten years after her kidnapping, the 26-year-old Berry realized that her bedroom door was left unlocked by Ariel Castro for the first time ever. Since Castro was apparently out of the house, Berry crept downstairs and realized that one of the two heavily secured front doors was also left open.
“My heart immediately started pounding,” Berry later recalled. “I’m like, ‘Should I chance it? If I’m going to do it, I need to do it now.'”
Berry managed to squeeze an arm through the padlocked storm door — and began screaming for help. She eventually caught the attention of one of Castro’s neighbors, Charles Ramsey. In response to Berry’s cries, Ramsey initially tried to pull the door open. But when that didn’t work, he kicked it to loosen it from its hinges. Berry finished kicking it out and then instructed her daughter Jocelyn, then six years old, to crawl outside.
Ramsey would later recall the shocking experience in a local news interview that would eventually go viral: “I heard screaming, I was eating my McDonalds… I knew something was wrong when a pretty little white girl ran into a Black man’s arms. Dead giveaway, dead giveaway.”
But Ramsey assumed she was a victim of domestic violence. He didn’t realize that she was Amanda Berry, the girl who had vanished a decade ago, because he assumed that Berry was dead. So did many others, until Berry found another neighbor with a phone who allowed her to use it to call 911.
During the 911 call, Berry told the dispatcher who she was and how long she’d been missing. She also revealed her kidnapper’s name.
Shortly thereafter, police arrived at Ariel Castro’s house to free Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus, who were still inside. Castro was soon tracked down in a nearby McDonald’s parking lot and was promptly arrested by police, who told him he was “in for some serious allegations.”
What Happened After Ariel Castro’s Arrest?
After Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight, and Gina DeJesus were rescued from captivity, they were all taken to the MetroHealth Hospital to receive treatment. Berry’s daughter Jocelyn was also examined.
Berry later revealed that she’d always been fearful of Ariel Castro abusing young Jocelyn while they were still trapped in their captor’s house. But fortunately, she says that Castro “never laid a hand” on the girl. And since Berry had already been teaching Jocelyn how to read and write, she wasn’t nearly as far behind with her education as she might’ve been.
Meanwhile, Castro was placed behind bars and charged with numerous counts of rape, kidnapping, and murder (the murder charges came from his role in beating Knight in order to terminate her pregnancies). Castro ultimately pleaded guilty to 937 charges and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on August 1, 2013.
However, just one month into his life sentence, the 53-year-old Castro hanged himself in his prison cell with a bedsheet.
As time went on, Berry and the others adjusted to life outside of captivity, reconnecting with their loved ones. Tragically, however, Berry would never see her mother again — as Louwana Miller had died of heart failure in 2006 while her daughter was still missing. Some partly blamed a self-proclaimed psychic named Sylvia Browne for Miller’s death, as Browne had told Miller on a 2004 episode of The Montel Williams Show that her daughter was dead.
One city councilor who spent time with Miller before her death claimed, “She literally died of a broken heart.”
While Berry was devastated to learn her mother was no longer alive, she was determined not to let her hard work die with her. Since the 2013 escape, Berry, Knight, and DeJesus have all publicly spoken about their experiences in captivity and have devoted much of their time to helping other survivors of abuse and supporting families of other missing people.
For Berry’s part, she began hosting a daily segment for the Cleveland TV station Fox 8 News in 2017 called “Missing with Amanda Berry.” This segment highlights cases of missing children and adults in the Cleveland area with the hope of safely returning them home. In 2020, Berry also collaborated with U.S. Marshals for their Operation Safety Net, playing a crucial role in locating 35 missing kids in the timespan of just a month.
Berry says her mother is a big reason why she’s devoted so much of her time to this important work: “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.”
After learning about Amanda Berry’s brave escape from her kidnapper Ariel Castro, discover more incredible survival stories. Then, read about 11 cold cases that “Unsolved Mysteries” helped solve.