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FILE - This Monday Feb. 24, 2014 file photo shows from left, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight introduced at the Performing Arts Center in Medina, Ohio. The three women held captive in a Cleveland house before escaping a year ago Tuesday have spent their first year of freedom learning to drive, taking boxing lessons and cherishing time with their families. Berry and DeJesus both said in statements released Monday, May 5, 2014 that they are thankful and growing in many ways. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

CLEVELAND (AP) -- The three women held captive in a Cleveland house before escaping a year ago Tuesday have spent their first year of freedom in nearly a decade learning to drive, taking boxing lessons and cherishing time with their families.

Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus both said in statements released Monday that they are thankful and growing in many ways.

Michelle Knight said in an interview on NBC's "Today" show Monday that she forgives the man who kidnapped and tortured her and the two others. She said Ariel Castro deserves forgiveness because she'd want to be forgiven if she did wrong, and "that's the way of life."

Tuesday is the anniversary of the escape from the house by Knight, Berry and DeJesus. Knight, 33, said she doesn't see much of the other two women, saying "we're all now living in our own way."

DeJesus was 14 when she was kidnapped by Castro. She said she's enjoying learning how to drive and use new technology. "I am spending time with my family and working with Amanda on a book that we are really excited about," she said.

Berry said the future is bright for her and thanked her family and friends for support.

"On this day, we decided that the right place for us to be was with other families who have gone through what our family has gone through," Berry said. "I want these families to know they will always have a special place in our hearts."

Knight -- who has a book coming out Tuesday -- said she's a singer who just recorded a song, and she's also training to be a boxer.

Knight said in the interview that she was surprised when Castro, who pleaded guilty in August, killed himself in prison, wondering "why would he hurt his children like that?"

The three all hoped their captor would plead guilty to avoid a trial, according to documents released by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office Monday, and the FBI and Cleveland Police Department also did not want the women to be re-traumatized by a trial.

"They say they understand the need to put Castro away for life," according to a July 11, 2013 prosecutor's document weighing the pros and cons of seeking the death penalty.

Castro pleaded guilty to hundreds of charges last year and committed suicide in prison shortly after beginning a life sentence.

DeJesus was 14, Berry was 16 and Knight was 20 when they disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004. They were rescued from Castro's run-down house May 6, 2013, after Berry broke through a screen door.

Berry and DeJesus are collaborating with two Washington Post reporters on a book due out next year. Charles Ramsey, the man credited with helping the women escape from the house, also has written a book.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Associated Press,

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