Cleveland captive Michelle Knight was removed from the missing person’s database just 15 months after she was reported missing in 2002, it emerged today.
Police removed her name after repeated attempts to contact her mother to verify the-then 22-year-old was still missing failed.
Barbara Knight said that police did not do enough to try and find her daughter and did not give it the same attention as Amanda Berry’s case or Gina DeJesus because they thought she was a runaway.
The police department’s policy on investigating missing adults at the time states that an officer must go and see if a missing person has been found, then inform the FBI within two hours so the person can be removed from the National Crime Information Center database.
Kym Pasqualini, a national advocate for missing adults, told The Plain Dealer that the removal of Michelle Knight’s name and description from the database helped the case fall through the cracks.
However, even after she was removed from the database, police reports show that officers continued to inquire about her whereabouts several times afterwards and successfully verified she was still missing in May 2003 after finally reaching her mother.
On Wednesday, two days after their escape from the house on Seymour Avenue, Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry were released from the hospital and reunited with their families.
Michelle Knight remains in the hospital.
It also emerged yesterday that Michelle Knight was gang-raped and impregnated in junior high – a year before she suffered more than ten years of abuse under a kidnapper.
Her great-aunt, Deborah Knight, told the New York Daily News on Thursday that three male classmates grabbed Michelle at school and raped her.
Deborah Knight told the paper that if that wasn’t enough of a hardship, she later found out that she was pregnant as a result of that attack – and later had a son she named Joey.
The boy was placed in foster care shortly after he was born.
Michelle Knight’s twin brother Freddie told the paper that when he saw his long-lost sister, she asked him for a hug.
He added: “She was so freaking happy. I gave her a hug, but I couldn’t give her a bear hug because of all the things that happened to her.”
Relatives told the Daily News that Michelle is looking forward to being reunited with her son, now 13, after she leaves the hospital.
It was revealed earlier this week that Michelle Knight is reportedly suffering hearing loss and facial bone damage after years of vicious beatings to her head.
Michelle Knight’s mother Barbara, 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.
On Wednesday, Barbara Knight told 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,” Barbara Knight 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 just wish that my daughter would reach out and let me know that she’s there… She’s probably angry at the world because she thought she would never be found but thank God that somebody did,” she said.
“I don’t want her to think that I forgot about her… Hopefully whatever happened between us, if something did – I hope it heals because I really want to take her back to Florida with me.”
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.
“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 was known of Michelle Knight.
While family appeals for Gina and Amanda have been frequent and well-publicized over the past ten years, her case appears to have been long forgotten.
Michelle Knight was in her early 20’s 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.
The mother previously told The Plain Dealer that Michelle vanished shortly after she was scheduled for a court appearance in the custody case of her son.
She told the paper that Michelle had become involved with an abusive man whom she thinks injured her toddler grandson, eventually leading her daughter to lose the boy.
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.