Cleveland: The three women who had been imprisoned in a Cleveland home for the past decade thanked their supporters in a statement on Sunday and asked for privacy so they could reconnect with their families after their stunning captivity and rescue.
The victims may choose to tell their stories to the media after legal proceedings against suspect Ariel Castro conclude, said attorney James Wooley, who read the statement in downtown Cleveland.
Castro, 52, was arrested and held on $8 million bail, charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape. Prosecutors said they intend to pursue a host of additional charges that could result in the death penalty.
"Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight are extremely grateful for the generous assistance and loving support of their families, friends and the community. They are also very grateful for the tireless efforts of numerous law enforcement officials," the statement said.
Donations have poured in from Cleveland and around the world with offers cash, furniture and use of a vacation home to help them rebuild their lives.
A fund established by three members of the Cleveland City Council and administered by a non-profit group had raised more than $50,000 for the victims as of Saturday, said Cleveland Councilman Brian Cummins.
The three women and Berry's 6-year-old daughter, born in captivity, were rescued on Monday after having disappeared between 2002 and 2004 and held in Castro's dungeon-like home.
Two of Castro's brothers were also arrested but released when investigators determined they were unaware their brother had kept the three women inside his house for years, first chaining them in the basement and later locking them in upstairs quarters.
The two brothers told CNN in an interview they feared people would always believe they were involved.
"I couldn't never think of doing anything like that. If I knew that my brother was doing this ... I would not be, not - in a minute, I would call the cops because that ain't right," Pedro Castro, 54, said.
The brothers, each clean-shaven and wearing ties, sat side-by-side for the interview from a secret location, where they were in hiding to avoid reprisals. The image contrasted with the police mug shots that were issued to the public, showing disheveled men in jail uniforms.
"The people out there that know me, they know that Onil Castro is not that person and has nothing to do with that. Would never even think of something like that," Onil Castro, 50, told CNN.
Knight was kidnapped in 2002 at the age of 20; Berry in 2003 the day before her 17th birthday; and DeJesus in 2004, when she was 14.
Berry told police her escape had been her first chance to break free in the 10 years she was held, seizing an opportunity during Castro's momentary absence. With the help of neighbors, she and her daughter broke free, and police discovered and freed the other two women.
"Thank you so much for everything you're doing and continue to do. I am so happy to be home with my family," Berry said, according to the statement read by Wooley.
"Best" Mother's Day
The mother of DeJesus said she would be celebrating the "best Mother's Day" ever on Sunday.
DeJesus, 23, Berry, 27, and Berry's daughter were welcomed into their family homes last week after Monday's escape and rescue.
"This is the best Mother's Day I could ever have," Nancy Ruiz said, when asked by a reporter last week how this year's celebration of motherhood would differ from those during the nine years her daughter was missing after she vanished while walking home from junior high school.
Gina DeJesus, in her statement read by Wooley, said: "I'm so happy to be home and want to thank everybody for all your prayers. I just want time now to be with my family."
The fourth captive, Michelle Knight, 32, the longest-held, slipped into seclusion after being released from a hospital on Friday. She shunned hospital visits from family members, some of whom believed she was a runaway when she disappeared 11 years ago after losing custody of her young son, her grandmother said.
"Thank you to everyone for your support and good wishes. I am healthy, happy and safe and will reach out to family, friends and supporters in good time," Knight said in the statement read by the lawyer.
Knight told police was impregnated five times by Castro, who then starved her and beat her until she miscarried, according to a police report.
Under Ohio law, causing the unlawful termination of another's pregnancy constitutes murder, giving prosecutors an avenue to pursue the death penalty if the accusation can be proven.
Castro also forced Knight to deliver Berry's daughter, and he threatened to kill Knight if the baby died, the police report said.
© Thomson Reuters 2013