CHICAGO (AFP) - Rapist Ariel Castro took "a coward's way out" when he killed himself in prison, one of the three women he abducted and held captive for a decade said.
"I understand the reason why he did it," Michelle Knight said on Wednesday.
"He finally figured out the pain he put us through was the pain he didn't want to go through."
Knight was the first of the three women to be snatched off the street in 2002 when she was 20 years old.
"I was the most hated," she said in the first public interview given by any of the women since their dramatic escape on May 6.
In the second episode of a paid interview with the popular "Dr Phil" television programme, the diminutive woman described how she grew close with fellow captive Gina DeJesus after they were chained together in a locked room.
"There was times he would hit her and I would stop him and take the hit," she said. "I know how it feels to be hurt, and I didn't want her to go through that."
She described how DeJesus comforted her after Castro starved her and beat her until she miscarried.
"Every time got worse," she told celebrity therapist Phil McGraw.
"By the third time I got pregnant, it was kicking, jumping on my stomach like I was a bed," Knight said.
"He would literally have me lay straight and jump on my stomach."
Knight said DeJesus - who was 14 when she was kidnapped in 2004 - would try to rub her stomach to ease the pain, but "it just kept on coming like a knife."
She said she nearly died when Castro forced her to eat sandwiches with mustard even though she was allergic to it. Her throat and body swelled up. DeJesus wrapped her arms around Knight, who "begged her to let me die, but she wouldn't do it."
She was not close with fellow captive Amanda Berry, who was kidnapped at age 16 in 2003 and bore Castro's daughter.
"He treated her totally different so she looked at the situation in a different way," Knight said. "She was one of those girls that really didn't get it."
It was Berry who allowed the women to escape after breaking open part of the front door and calling out to a neighbour for help.
Tasting freedom after 11 years of torture was "a roller coaster of mixed emotions," Knight said.
"I wanted to kiss the ground that I was walking on, and thank God for letting me get out of that hell hole."
More than 92 pounds (42 kg) of chains were found in the filthy, darkened home where the women were kept in locked rooms with boarded-up windows.
Castro, 53, pleaded guilty on August 1, after prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.
He was sentenced to 1,000 years in prison and hanged himself from the window of his prison cell a month later.