Seymour neighbors watch Ariel Castro's house come down

5:50 PM, Aug 7, 2013   |    comments
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Video: Michelle Knight returns to watch Seymour demolition

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CLEVELAND -- The home that became a prison for three Cleveland women is gone now, nothing but a fence to remind neighbors of Ariel Castro.  

Independence Excavating donated its services to level the property Wednesday morning. 

A family member of Gina DeJesus represented her, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight from the driver's seat as the house was stripped away.   

Ownership of 2207 Seymour Avenue was obtained by prosecutors in a plea deal to save Castro's life.

The Cuyahoga County Land Bank owns the property now, until the city figures out a future use for it.   

Starting at about 7 a.m., the FBI Evidence Response Teams oversaw the process to make sure everything was removed from the property. 

The demolition took only about an hour, but carting more than two dozen truckloads of material lasted into the evening.   

Everything from the address was carried off to be ground up and taken to an undisclosed landfill to be sure none of it can be turned in to "murderabelia," morbid souvenirs that can be worth big bucks.   

The most incredible moment for most Wednesday was not watching the house fall, but watching Michelle Knight stand up for those who are missing. 

"Why it was important to be here today is because nobody was there for me when I was missing," she said, speaking directly to reporters for the first time. "And I want the people out there to know, including the mothers, that they can have strength. They can have hope."

Michelle Knight watched from across Seymour Avenue as the walls came down. 

She shared this prayer with cameras: "Dear Lord, give the missing people strength and power to know that they are loved. We hear their cries. They are never forgotten in my heart. They are caterpillars waiting to turn into a butterfly." 

Knight handed out yellow balloons, organizing a release to give neighbors a bright reminder. 

"It represents all the millions of children that are never found. And the ones that passed away that were never heard," she said.

Prosecutors planned to use Castro's own money for demolition, but instead the money will be available for other, undetermined uses. 

Castro is serving his sentence of life in prison without parole plus 1,000 years. 

He was taken to the Lorain Correctional Institution Friday, where he's being evaluated before he's placed permanently. 

"We're so glad that this house, it comes down. Because it wasn't a house no more," said Jovita Marti, who grew up on Seymour. "It was a house of horror."

"Like Michelle said, we can forgive, but we don't forget," said Loren Gafthoff, who traveled from Akron to see the demolition. 

Neighbors and onlookers alike look forward to a new face of Seymour Avenue. 

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty says the county is purchasing two vacant homes and two open lots to the west.

Cleveland City Councilman Matt Zone is in charge of organizing a community process to find a new use for this land.   

While the future for the property is still unknown, Knight says she knows her future is that is as a motivational speaker, sharing hope around the country. 

"I feel very liberated that people think of me as a hero and a role model," she said. "And I would love to continue being that. And let everybody know that they are heard, that they are loved, and there is hope for everyone."

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