By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Michelle Knight, the longest-held captive in a dungeon-like Clevelandhouse, is free after 11 years. But she remains hospitalized and is shunning visits from relatives, some of whom thought she was a runaway when she vanished.
Knight, 32, was good condition Thursday at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland after her rescue Monday from a house that became her prison for more than a decade.
Neither Knight's grandmother nor her mother, who moved to Florida but flew back to Cleveland this week, have seen her.
"No, we haven't - on her request. She does not want to be seen by family," Deborah Knight, the grandmother, told Reuters.
One of Michelle's two brothers, Freddie Knight, did go to the hospital and visited with his sister immediately after the three women were found. The women were held inside the home except for two occasions when they were taken to a garage on the small property, police have said.
"Her skin was white as a ghost," said Freddie Knight. "She told me she was excited to start a new life."
He has since spoken to her once by phone but said he would leave her alone at the request of the hospital.
Ariel Castro, a 52-year-old former school bus driver was charged on Wednesday with kidnapping Knight, Amanda Berry, 27, and Gina DeJesus, 23, and a 6-year-old girl who was born in captivity. He was also charged with raping the three women.
The other captives were released from the hospital on Tuesday, and returned to family homes on Wednesday.
But Knight required additional medical care. A police report said Knight had suffered at least five miscarriages that Castro is accused of having intentionally caused by starving her for weeks and beating her in the abdomen.
Based on this, an Ohio prosecutor said on Thursday that he intends to seek aggravated murder charges against Castro, which could carry the death penalty if he is convicted.
Knight was a 20-year-old single mother when she vanished in 2002 after losing a custody battle with child welfare authorities over her son, who was about 3 or 4 years old, Deborah Knight said.
"They took him and she went out and took off and never came back," said the grandmother, noting the family believed she ran away.
The police report said the three women were separately offered car rides by Castro, who then took them prisoner, confining them with ropes and chains to his property in a crowded Cleveland neighborhood for roughly a decade.
VIGILS FOR TWO WOMEN
During the women's captivity, CNN reported, their tormentor showed them televised coverage of vigils held by the Berry and DeJesus families, who have said they never gave up hope the girls would return home alive.
Knight's family did not hold vigils and her grandmother said they were certain Michelle Knight was dead.
"We didn't think we would see her again," Deborah Knight said.
Michelle Knight's mother filed a missing persons report after she disappeared.
Berry and DeJesus were welcomed home by cheering throngs of well-wishers and a crush of flowers, balloons and posters.
Now Deborah Knight's home is similarly festooned with balloons, flowers and stuffed animals in the hope that her granddaughter will move into the house.
The grandmother's house is just a few miles from the home where Michelle Knight was held prisoner.
Victim advocacy groups pulled together on behalf of Knight on Thursday and were organizing a balloon release in her honor. "She is no longer forgotten. We want to let her know she is not alone," the groups said in a statement.
The Knight family was headed to the DeJesus home for a vigil in honor of the women.
"We figured we should go up to the DeJesus's and introduce ourselves and get to know them and become part of their family," Deborah Knight said.
(Additional reporting by John Grees; Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Frances Kerry and Doina Chiacu)