Real Life Crime

Life in Captivity – Kidnapped and Imprisoned

Unfortunately, there are many evil acts committed in the world daily in which victims are kidnapped to fulfil a role for their captor. The lucky ones end up being found shortly after, in many instances saving their lives, the bodies of others turn up unexpectedly and some victims remaining missing, their fates unknown. There are instances where the kidnapper will keep their victims for many years, subjecting them to endless torture and strife until they are rescued by chance or a random, unexpected act.

Shawn Hornbeck, Missouri

In 2002, while riding his bicycle, Shawn Hornbeck was kidnapped by Michael J. Delvin. The 11-year-old was threatened with death if he tried to escape. For the first month of captivity Delvin kept Shawn tied to a futon, with his mouth duct-taped. The torture that Shawn had to endure for the next four years included: physical and emotional torment, being forced to participate in sex acts and pose for pornographic videos and photographs.

Four years and three months after kidnapping Shawn, Delvin took another victim, 13-year-old Ben Ownby. The case was new and highly publicised and one of the kidnapper’s neighbours recognised his vehicle, as the one used in the kidnapping, and reported this to the police. When they entered the premises, they found Ben and Shawn.

Michael Delvin was tried and convicted of several crimes including kidnapping, the making of child pornography and molestation of a minor. In 2008, he was sentenced to 1850 years in prison and continues to serve his time.

Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, Cleveland

That same year in Cleveland, Ariel Castro kidnapped the first of his three victims. Michelle Knight had spent hours looking for the place that the hearing for her son’s custody was being kept. In desperation, she allowed Castro to persuade her that he would take her there. She willingly entered his car, after which he convinced her that they should stop at his home to pick up a puppy for her son.  Once there, he overpowered Michelle and chained her up by her arms, feet and neck. Michelle Knight spent over ten years in captivity, during which she was abused, starved, restrained and raped repeatedly. The sexual assault resulted in five pregnancies, with none of the babies surviving, as Castro would beat and starve her until she miscarried.

Eight months after Michelle Knight, Castro kidnapped Amanda Berry, a day before her 17th birthday. Gina DeJesus was his third victim, who was taken one year later, at the age of 14. Amanda and Gina also became subjected to his sexual assault, which resulted in Amanda giving birth to a baby girl. Years later, in response to his daughter’s questions about the women in the house being tied up, Castro allowed them to live more freely. Now able to move around in the house, Berry investigated her daughter’s claims that daddy had left the inside door open. Even though the storm door was locked, Amanda screamed for help, and escaped with her daughter when a neighbour came to their rescue. She called the police, who then broke into the house and found the other women.

Ariel Castro was charged with kidnapping, rape, attempted murder, assault and aggravated murder. He was then sentenced to 1000 years in prison, where he took his own life a month after being incarcerated.

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