CLEVELAND >> One of three women held captive in a Cleveland home for a decade appeared at a public event for the first time since her rescue, a day after her abductor pleaded guilty in the case.
Amanda Berry made a surprise appearance at the daylong concert RoverFest in Cleveland on Saturday night, walking on stage with her family and waving at the cheering crowd. Wearing sunglasses and dressed in jeans and a black T-shirt, Berry smiled broadly while acknowledging the applause, but she didn’t address the crowd. The rapper Nelly called Berry back to the stage after his music set.
The appearance came a day after Ariel Castro, a former school bus driver, pleaded guilty to 937 counts in a deal that will send him to prison for life without parole, plus 1,000 years.
Berry, now 27, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight disappeared between 2002 and 2004 when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old. They escaped in May when Berry kicked out part of a door and called to neighbors for help.
Berry told a police dispatcher in a dramatic 911 call: "Help me. I’m Amanda Berry. I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years, and I’m, I’m here, I’m free now."
Castro, 53, who was arrested and jailed shortly afterward, was accused of raping and beating the three repeatedly. He also fathered a 6-year-old daughter with Berry, authorities say.
The women didn’t attend the court proceeding but said in a statement that they were relieved by the conviction and looking forward to the end of the legal proceedings.
Berry and the other women said she had accepted a ride from Castro, who had remained friends with DeJesus’ family and attended vigils over the years marking her disappearance.
Castro was accused of restraining the women, sometimes chaining them to a pole in a basement, to a bedroom heater or inside a van. The indictment included two counts of aggravated murder related to accusations that he punched and starved one of the women until she miscarried.
Earlier this month, the three women offered thanks on YouTube for emotional and financial backing they’ve received since going "through hell and back."