In 2002, when 20-year-old Michelle Knight was abducted by school bus driver Ariel Castro and held captive in a Cleveland house, there was no TV or news coverage, no family members knocking on doors asking if anyone had seen her.
Devious and disturbed, Knight’s captor used the lack of family presence to abuse her further, telling Knight, “You will die here. Nobody’s looking — you won’t even be missed when you do die.”
And she would collapse into tears.
Knight spoke to Dr. Phil McGraw about her 11-year-ordeal, a conversation aired Tuesday and Wednesday and previewed on TODAY that detailed her years spent chained to a bed in an upstairs room, and to a post in the basement, freezing, hungry, and often naked.
She told Dr. Phil that when the mother of fellow captive Amanda Berry appeared on TV begging for news of her vanished daughter, Castro would say to Knight, “Where’s your family? Why don’t you have any? They must not really love you.”
Tears fell as she remembered those days, and her feeling that she was completely alone. “It was just extremely painful to have somebody come in your room day after day, telling you, 'Your family don't care about you. You never had a family that loves you. And that's the reason why I hate you, because I can abuse you and nobody would care,'" she told Dr. Phil.
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Castro was on to something, Knight told Dr. Phil. “It would hurt because I knew my family didn’t care,” she said. “And I knew they weren’t there for me because they never were. And to see Amanda have her mother, I just wanted her to be my mother. I wanted her to say all those things to me.”
Police also acknowledged there was little focus on finding Knight, because her family believed she had run away after losing her toddler son to protective custody. Knight's mother, Barbara Knight told TODAY on May 8 that it was the investigators who figured Michelle "just left because of the upset" of losing custody.
Knight has refused to see Barbara. Neither did she spare her mother her anguish, telling Dr. Phil that even before she was abducted, her own mother held her captive.
“I wasn’t allowed out. I wasn’t allowed to have friends,” Knight said. She claimed Barbara Knight wanted to keep her daughter uneducated to enable her to collect Supplemental Security income.
In May, Barbara told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that she had put up fliers for her missing daughter on Cleveland's West Side and had continued searching on her own even after moving out of the state.
Knight is the first of the three victims to speak about her ordeal. Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus are collaborating on a book with two Pulitzer-Prize-winning Washington Post reporters who are Cleveland natives, according to an Oct. 21 Associated Press report.
Castro routinely beat and raped the three women and forced Knight to miscarry several times. The women were freed May 6 of this year when Berry screamed for help once she realized Castro had not locked the home’s storm door. Two neighbors responded, kicking in the door and liberating Berry, who called police.
The women have been the focus of a maelstrom of media attention, but have managed to maintain some semblance of privacy. Knight’s often tearful interviews with Dr. Phil are the first to be aired publicly.
“The truth is that three girls were taken, three girls were rescued. Only two girls went home,” Dr. Phil told NBC News' Kristen Dahlgren on TODAY Wednesday. “She didn’t have a home. It’s time this girl got a break.”
The whole interview airs on "Dr. Phil" Wednesday. Check your local listings for air times.