The Cleveland house where Ariel Castro held three women captive and tortured them for more than a decade was demolished Wednesday.
A crowd cheered as the dilapidated white structure was reduced to rubble by heavy equipment, USA Today said
, less than a week after Castro was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years for the abduction and torture of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight.
The house was leveled as part of a deal that saved Castro from a possible death sentence.
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Knight brought a bouquet of yellow balloons in memory of other missing children waiting to be found, said USA Today.
The 53-year-old Castro pleaded guilty in July to 937 charges
including rape, kidnapping, and aggravated murder charges for forcing abortions. The women were rescued May 6 when a neighbor saw Berry trying to open a door and lifted her and the others to safety.
DeJesus was 14 when she disappeared, Berry was 16, and Knight was 21. The survivors have stayed out of the spotlight since being freed, but released a video to thank the community and country for their support
As the final pieces of the house tumbled, a local church rang its bells, according to CBS Cleveland affiliate WOIO-TV
Knight spoke briefly to ask God for strength for those still missing and told their families to have hope.
Though DeJesus didn't attend, her family members watched from across the street, including one of her aunts, Peggy Arida.
"It just felt great, knowing that it's coming down," Arida told WOIO-TV.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Joseph Frolik said officials wanted the house demolished because "we didn't want some kind of gruesome, macabre shrine, if you will, that would get gawkers and curiosity seekers," USA Today reported. Two local companies offered to destroy the house at no cost, and hope to finish by the end of the week.
Cuyahoga County Land Bank obtained the house's deed last week. The county is also working to get the deeds to two homes adjacent to Castro's. Sources told USA Today that the two vacant homes will likely come down in a month, allowing space for landscaping or a community project.
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Castro was a former school bus driver who plucked the three women from the Cleveland streets between 2002-04. Police said he kept the women chained in the house for long periods, beating and starving them and forcing Knight to miscarry several pregnancies.
Knight described the period as "hell." During Castro's sentencing, Knight called her fellow survivors her "teammates," and told Castro that he was now about to begin his own hell in prison
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