Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were imprisoned in Ariel Castro’s Cleveland house in conditions described as similar to a prisoner of war camp and have suffered from severe malnutrition.
They will require long-term therapy for injuries such as hearing loss and joint and muscle damage, two sources with direct knowledge said.
The harrowing details come as Ariel Castro’s attorneys claim he’s not the “monster” depicted in news reports – and he will plead not guilty to kidnapping and rape charges.
Ariel Castro’s lawyer, Craig Weintraub, told WKYC-TV: “The initial portrayal by the media has been one of a <<monster>> and that’s not the impression that I got when I talked to him for three hours.
“I know that family members who have been interviewed by the media have expressed that as well.”
The basement where the women were held had chains coming from the wall, and dog leashes attached to the ceiling, the sources said.
The women were restrained with them and duct tape in “stress positions” for long periods that left them with bed sores and other injuries, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the investigation, who asked not to be identified.
Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were in worse condition than Amanda Berry when they emerged from at least nine years in captivity at the home of Ariel Castro, accused of kidnapping and raping the women.
Ariel Castro appeared to treat Amanda Berry – his “favorite” – better than the other two, the sources said.
“There is a reason why you have only seen a picture of Amanda,” said one of the sources, referring to the condition of Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight.
Michelle Knight told investigators she fell pregnant five times, but lost the baby each time. She said that Ariel Castro starved and repeatedly punched her in the stomach to force her to miscarry.
Police sources told the National Enquirer that Ariel Castro had no interest in having children with Michelle Knight, because she was only 4-foot-7 and believed her to be “mentally disabled”.
The magazine’s source added that Ariel Castro was grooming his 6-year-old daughter with Amanda Berry, Jocelyn, as another sex slave because the other captives “were getting to old for him”.
Amanda Berry, who broke down a door to freedom a week ago with the help of a neighbor, and then told police of the other women, was photographed smiling immediately after the dramatic rescue.
In contrast, Gina DeJesus wore a hooded sweat-shirt covering her head when she first went home last week, and Michelle Knight was hospitalized for days, and has stayed out of public view.
The sources said Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were gaunt and had closely cropped hair when they were freed.
One of the sources, who has been in the house, said the basement had chains coming from the walls and “dog leashes attached to the ceiling”, Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus told police they spent extensive time in the basement.
A second source corroborated the details.
“One of the girls has difficulty moving her head around from being chained up,” said one of the sources. The second source identified Gina DeJesus as the woman suffering this injury.
“It was like they were POWs [prisoners of war]. They had bed sores from being left in positions for extended lengths of time,” a source said.
All the bedroom doors in the house had padlocks on the outside and the rooms were spare with only a mattress on the floor. Their movement through the house was very restricted, the women have told authorities.
“If he left for long periods of time he would sometimes duct tape-up the women over all parts of their faces, even their eyes, only leaving an opening so they could breathe. Then he would just rip it off pulling off skin and hair,” one of the sources said.
A police report said Michelle Knight was starved for weeks at a time and punched in the stomach to induce several miscarriages. A county prosecutor intends to file fetal homicide charges against Ariel Castro in connection with the miscarriages.
The women, especially Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, were now exhibiting signs of malnutrition as Ariel Castro used food as a means to torment them, one of the sources said.
“He would bring food to one or two of the girls and made the others watch as they or he would eat in front of them,” the source said.
Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus would sneak food to each other, this source said.
Ariel Castro generally kept one woman upstairs and the other two – usually Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus – in the basement, the source said.
Despite their ordeal, a Cleveland city council member stressed that the women are reveling in their freedom.
“They are doing well, doing very well. They are thriving and enjoying their freedom,” City Councilman Brian Cummins said on Monday.
The sources asked to be anonymous because they were not authorized to speak on the record. They were discussing some of the details of the captivity because they felt tight information control had left the impression that authorities ignored calls and reports about Ariel Castro’s house that could have freed the women sooner.
Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath on Monday issued a statement defending the police department’s policy of restricting information on the crimes.
“The disclosure of sensitive information and details of these horrendous crimes only further victimize three young women. The criticism of law enforcement efforts is disheartening. The dissemination of misinformation erodes the critical relationship between law enforcement and community,” Michael McGrath said.
Little is known about the relationship among the three women. Michelle Knight, who is now 32, Amanda Berry, 27 and Gina DeJesus, 23, have not spoken publicly.