The house of kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro, the man who was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years last week, has been razed. Michelle Knight, one of the three women for whom the house became a prison for nearly a decade, was on hand for the demolition Wednesday.
"Dear Lord, give the missing people strength and power to know that they are loved," said Knight, according to the AP. "We hear their cry, they are never forgotten in my heart. They are caterpillars, waiting to turn into a butterfly. They are never forgotten, they are loved."
Knight gave out yellow balloons to the crowd who had gathered for the demolition today; they were released into the morning sky on Seymour Avenue, where Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus finally found freedom in May. Relatives of the three women also attended Wednesday's dismantling of Castro's house, along with local officials.
"It was three months and a few days ago that this escape took place," Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty said at the site Wednesday, according to NPR member station WCPN's Brian Bull. "And this man was sent to where he belongs, in prison. He's gonna sit in the bowels of prison now, the rest of his life, the rest of his days, living in fear himself, from the other prisoners. It's fitting."
Neighbors and others who watched and cheered the destruction told reporters present that they were glad to see the house gone.
"The monument to hell is no more," said Cuyahoga Land Bank President Gus Frangos, according to The Cleveland Plain Dealer. He added that two neighboring properties to the west will also be demolished in coming days.
"Two local contractors destroyed the house and hauled the debris away, on their own dime," Brian Bull reports for WCPN. "City Councilman Matt Zone says every last shred of Castro's house is going to be pulverized and discarded."
The point of that thoroughness, Brian reports, is to ensure the house's remains don't become the object of perverse fascination. Zone added that he hopes the house's destruction helps Knight, Berry, DeJesus, and their families to heal.