Michelle Knight: Fame comes with complications

Kidnap victim ready to assume new life, new identity
Associated Press
Jul 14, 2014


Michelle Knight has discovered that the fame that followed her escape from Ariel Castro's house of horrors cuts both ways.

There has been some obvious good. The girl who grew up without a toothbrush and spent nearly 11 years in captivity can provide for herself. She has her own apartment. Her book, "Finding Me," spent five weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers List. She and the other two women kidnapped by Castro split $1.4 million in donations collected after their escape. Phil McGraw of "Dr. Phil" television fame presented Knight with an oversized check for more than $400,000 from his foundation.

In a recent interview with the Associated Press, Knight said she is ready to assume a normal life and, with it, a new name and identity — Lily Rose Lee.

"I'm not a celebrity," said Knight, 33. "I don't want to be. I want to be me."

Fame has brought some frustrations. Knight becomes frightened when crowds sometimes gather around her as she walks alone. She finds it annoying when people snap cellphone photos without asking.

And people from her distant past have reappeared, feigning friendship but ultimately seeking money, she said.

"You have to be careful every day because of the book and the money and the 'it' factor of who you are," she said. "They're not coming at me to be my friend. They want what I have."

Knight writes in her book that she grew up under less than ideal circumstances. Food and clothing were hard to come by. Strangers drifted in and out of the house at all hours. She said her mother kept her home from school for days at a time to care for her twin brothers and assorted cousins who lived there.

She ran away from home at 15 and lived beneath a highway underpass and then with a drug dealer for a few months. She said in the interview that it was the most nurturing period of her early life.

Knight was 21 when Castro lured her to his home in August 2002. Amanda Berry was abducted in April 2003 just a day shy of her 17th birthday, and Gina DeJesus was 14 when he kidnapped her a year later.

The women escaped from Castro's home on May 6, 2013. Castro took a plea deal to avoid a potential death sentence and received life in prison plus 1,000 years. Knight said he violently aborted five of her pregnancies by kicking, punching and stomping on her abdomen after impregnating her. He ended up hanging himself in his prison cell a month after sentencing.

While Berry and DeJesus were reunited with loving families who had prayed that they would someday return, Knight refused to meet her mother who had flown to Cleveland from Florida. Knight spent the first four months of her freedom in an assisted living facility because she had nowhere else to go.

Knight said her 3,911 days in captivity have helped instill in her a deep appreciation for what's good in the world.

"It's just the little stupid things, like picking up a phone or writing in a book or looking out a window or just seeing a bird fly by," she said.

These days, she waits her turn at a local bar for karaoke night. She's trying to write and record songs. While she has been befuddled by some of the new technology that didn't exist in 2002 — like flat-screen televisions — she has no problems pecking away at her oversized smartphone.

She also has a growing collection of tattoos, including an image of a pretty young girl on her left bicep. She said the tattoo represents the babies Castro killed.

"They are my little angels," she said.

Knight has an infectious giggle and is quick to smile. She has a few phobias, like always keeping her apartment drapes open after living in boarded-up rooms inside the Castro house. Having lived in filth for so long, she said she's become a compulsive cleaner.

The course Knight is setting means leaving her family behind. She said she forgives them but doesn't want anything to do with them.

She also has decided to not pursue visitation rights with her son, Joey, who is now 14 and lives with adoptive parents. Knight said he doesn't know she's his birth mother and she doesn't want to disrupt his life. She knows he's happy, and that's good enough for her.

As for the future, she has a number of aspirations such as becoming a chef and owning a restaurant and recording music. What seems to excite her most, at the moment, is the prospect of soon visiting Disney World.

Knight said she believes God has a plan for her life.

Her Facebook page, which has nearly 24,000 likes, has become a support group for trauma victims. Discussing what she and others have endured has been therapeutic for her, she said. What pleases her most is having a positive effect on the lives of others.

"If I can help more than a million people or just one," she said, "I did my job."



dorothy gale

A truly amazing woman.

Finn Finn

I absolutely agree Dorothy. I just finished reading her book. The trauma and horror she went through for 11 years was truly horrifying, and yet, she came out of it a beautiful, well-spoken woman with a desire to only do good in this world. Her love for humanity is remarkable, given what she endured. She seems to find something good in everyone. I wish her the very best in her life. I love this girl.

nosey rosey

Yet she has no problem making money off her story or telling the media what her new name is.




What would you rather her to do? Could you do this better?

Julie R.

I just finished reading her book, too, and it made me sick what she went through. May she have the very best in life for the rest of her life.

Kottage Kat

I love happy endings.

Truth or Dare

Michelle Knight, the first to be abducted, held captive, horribly sexually, physically, mentally and emotionally abused, forced to do things the majority of us could never imagine, not only has every right in choosing a new identity, but is entitled to every last penny she would receive regarding her book deal, lecture given, whatever w/o the burden of feeling some kind of shame! I would say she's earned every last penny! Just a thought, maybe that book is her personal path to healing and yet another as to her vow she made sometime back as to her desire to be an ADVOCATE for others who've experienced such an ugly side of humanity!

Lily Rose Lee has NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF, and for it to be insinuated that she should be, well, that's just a small example of the cold-heartedness that allows things like this to happen, and all right under the noses of an entire freakin neighborhood and city!!!!!!!! Like I said before, I'll never look at a boarded up house the same again, let alone one someone is residing in. Also, can't imagine the shame and guilt that might be felt by those that said they were doing their best to find these girls. Also, if I were a resident of the East side of Cleveland, where children and adults are coming up missing every day, I would be screaming at my local government to open up every boarded up, abandoned building there is!


I think its sad that her young life had to be a nightmare .But through it all its great that she is think positive and tring to nake suregood comes from the 11 year nightmare .
All of you girls are not only in my thoughts everyday . But my prayers as well .
This ordeal that you have been through has really made you stronger and much wiser . And I can only hope yhe rest of your lives are filled with smiles as well as much happiness
Which is long over due