Michelle Knight, one of the three women freed from a decade of imprisonment in a Cleveland home, is reportedly suffering hearing loss and facial bone damage after years of vicious beatings to her head, it has emerged.
Michelle Knight, now 32, who vanished in 2002, was found at a Cleveland home on Monday with two other women and a six-year-old girl – but she has not yet contacted her mother for a reunion.
The first details about Michelle Knight are emerging as images of her have finally been released. They show her as a teenager before she was kidnapped – at a time when she endured an often troubled relationship with her family.
She had given birth to a son who was later taken into the custody of child services, and authorities suggested to her mother that she may have fled following the upset from the ordeal.
Her mother, Barbara Knight, left her home in Naples, Florida, on Tuesday to head to Cleveland to see Michelle but they have not yet been reunited, she told the Today show.
Barbara Knight, 50, said she never gave up hope and will now be able to introduce Michelle to the half sister she has never met, 10-year-old Katie, who was born after she disappeared.
Katie was with her mother as they left for the airport on Tuesday afternoon.
On Wednesday, Barbara Knight spoke to the Today show about how she had never given up hope that her daughter was alive – but that she was led to believe the woman, then in her 20s, had fled.
“Certain people said she didn’t want nothing to do with me but still in my heart I thought no, because I knew my Michelle,” she said.
“They figured she just left because of the baby and everything.
“[Police] told me if she breaks the law or they spot her, they’ll let me know – but nothing happened.”
Barbara Knight, who said she filed a missing persons report after Michelle vanished and continued to search for her, said her sons have been reunited with Michelle but she has not yet seen her.
“I don’t want her to think that I forgot about her,” Barbara Knight said.
“Hopefully whatever happened between us, if something did – I hope it heals because I really want to take her back to Florida with me.”
Sources told Fox 8 that Michelle Knight appears to have facial bone damage from her horrific treatment.
But Barbara Knight said that she knew little about what had happened to Michelle since she last saw her as she has not spoken with detectives, she said.
“There was a detective who called me but he just said it was my daughter,” she said, adding that she missed his call and that he had left work when she called back.
“I didn’t get a hold of anyone.”
Instead, she only knows the details from watching news reports.
While the stories of missing Cleveland girls Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry, who were also found on Monday, have remained high-profile cases over the last decade, little is known of Michelle Knight.
While family appeals for Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry have been frequent and well-publicized over the past ten years, her case appears to have been long forgotten.
Now believed to be aged around 32, Michelle Knight was in her early twenties when she was last seen on August 23, 2002, at her cousin’s house near West 106th Street and Lorain Avenue.
Barbara Knight said she would often put up fliers around Cleveland’s West Side and even after moving away she would return to continue the search on her own as police were little help.
Michelle Knight’s grandmother, Deborah Knight, said the family, after speaking with police and social workers, had accepted that she likely left on her own free will.
They believed Michelle Knight was angry that her son had been taken into custody.
Barbara Knight previously told The Plain Dealer that her daughter vanished shortly after she was scheduled for a court appearance in the custody case of her son.
The mother told the paper that Michelle Knight had become involved with an abusive man whom she thinks injured her toddler grandson, eventually leading Michelle to lose the boy.
Michelle Knight had him as a teenager; her mother said that she had been assaulted at school but it was never taken seriously by police. She then fell pregnant soon after and dropped out of school.
Michelle Knight was never registered as missing on the Ohio Missing Persons website.
Barbara Knight told The Plain Dealer she believes she once saw her daughter walking with an older man at a shopping mall several years ago. When the woman trailed behind her companion, he would grab her by the arm and pull her along, she said.
The mother was “calmly” looking forward to the reunion according to neighbors in Naples, where she lives with her second husband Tom Hudson and members of his family.
“It’s an emotional time for them,” said Sheldon Gofberg who lives across the street from the family’s house in the southwest Florida town.
“They didn’t get any sleep last night.”
Sheldon Gofberg said neighbors had no idea that Barbara Knight was the mother of a missing girl and that she appeared to have her hands full looking after Katie and helping with Tom Hudson’s two children, Julian, 16, and his sister Alex, 8.
“They’re a friendly family, Tom would do anything to help you, give you the shirt off his back,” Sheldon Gofberg said.
Despite the turmoil, Tom Hudson kept a commitment with Sheldon Gofberg to take him to a Home Depot.
“We were in the car driving and Tom said, <<You know those three girls they found in the house in Cleveland? One of them was Barbara’s daughter>>. I was astounded,” Sheldon Gofberg said.
“I said, <<She’s got to be pretty emotional?>> and he said, <<Not really because we’ve been waiting to hear back from the FBI>>.”
The family had refused to talk to reporters and TV crews waiting outside their home, sending the teenage boy Julian, who was wearing an ankle monitoring bracelet, outside to ask them to leave.
After 10 years being held against their will, the three women – Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight – were finally freed after neighbor Charles Ramsey, heard screaming from the house and helped them escape through a door.