Three Ohio women found alive after being missing for a decade; 3 men arrested
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Amanda Berry (right) was reunited with her sister on Monday after Berry and two other women were found alive in a house in Cleveland, Ohio.
“Help me, I’m Amanda Berry.”
With one frantic 911 call on Monday evening, three women missing for years were found in a Cleveland house where they had been held against their will by three brothers, police in Ohio said.
“I’ve been kidnapped,” Berry, who disappeared a decade ago, told the dispatcher. “I’ve been missing for 10 years and I’m out here. I’m free now.”
Authorities heaped praise on Berry, now 27 and the mother of a 6-year-old.
“The real hero here is Amanda,” said Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba.
Berry and two other women, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, went missing between 2000 and 2004 in separate incidents. The women were all between the ages of 14 and 20 when they vanished.
Neighbors and relatives celebrated the happy ending, but for some, the years had taken their toll. Berry’s mother died in 2006, not knowing whether her daughter was alive or dead.
Three suspects are under arrest — former school-bus driver Ariel Castro, 52, and his brothers Pedro, 54, and O’Neal, 50, Cleveland police said. A search warrant related to the arrest was executed by police at an address on Seymour Avenue in Cleveland, police said.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said at a Tuesday press conference that there are many unanswered questions: “Why were they taken, how they were taken and how they remained undetected in the city of Cleveland for all this time?”
The three women were taken to nearby Metro Health Medical hospital, along with Berry’s child, officials said.
All three women were released from the hospital Tuesday morning, the hospital said in a statement, after reporting earlier in the morning that they had been in “fair condition.”
“The nightmare is over,” said Cleveland FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen Anthony. “These three young ladies have provided us with the ultimate definition of survival and perseverance. The healing can now begin.”
Amanda Berry, Georgina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight were all kidnapped roughly ten years ago in the Cleveland area and were held captive in a home until yesterday when a neighbor heard Berry screaming for help. NBC’s Kristen Dahlgren reports and former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt discusses the case.
The three disappearances had stumped police in Cleveland and shaken the community for years. Berry was reported missing on April 21, 2003 after she phoned her sister to say she was getting a ride home from her job at a fast food restaurant. About one year after that, 14-year-old DeJesus vanished while walking home from school.
Police said their records showed two visits to the home in recent years. In 2000, they responded to a call about a fight from Ariel Castro. In 2004, after Castro was accused of leaving a child on a bus, authorities went to the house but no one was home.
Authorities said they never stopped looking for the missing women, running down tips and even digging up two backyards. The break came when Berry summoned the courage to escape.
Neighbor Charles Ramsey said he was at home when he saw a man from across the street running to the house next door. When Ramsey went outside, he said, he saw a young woman who said she was trying to escape the house.
“This girl is kicking the door and screaming,” Ramsey said. “She says, ‘I’ve been kidnapped and I’ve been in this house a long time and I want to leave right now.’”
When the door would not open Ramsey helped kick it down, he said, then allowed Berry to call 911. The young woman carried her child through the broken door, and told Ramsey it belonged to her captor. It’s unclear who is the child’s father.
Cleveland Police Deputy Chief Ed Tomba discusses some of the details surrounding the case of three Ohio women, missing for nearly a decade, who were found alive after one of them escaped to call 911.
Police then entered the house and brought out DeJesus and Knight, according to Ramsey.
Police said they have not fully debriefed the victims.
“You can only imagine the scene last night at the hospital with the family and the friends…it was chaotic,” Tomba said.
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‘Can I help?’ Neighbor Charles Ramsey tells of role in discovery of missing women
Charles Ramsey, a neighbor who helped rescue the missing Ohio women after hearing screams for help, tells reporters in Cleveland how the situation unfolded.
Neighbor Charles Ramsey has told how he heard screams coming from an Ohio home and went to investigate — a decision that led to the discovery of three women missing for years.
To the neighbors, the house on Seymour Avenue in Cleveland seemed normal. There was nothing to indicate that inside — in addition to the resident they had come to know — were women who had disappeared in separate cases about a decade ago.
That changed on Monday.
“This girl is kicking the door and screaming,” Ramsey told NBC station WKYC-TV. “So I go over there … and I say, ‘Can I help? What’s going on?’ And she says, ‘I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been in this house a long time. I want to leave right now.'”
Ramsey, who lived across the street and let the woman use his phone to call 911, described being stunned when he realized that the woman was Amanda Berry, who had been missing for 10 years.
Ramsey told reporters he had barbecued with the 52-year-old man who lived in the house. Police said that the man and two of his brothers, ages 50 and 54, had been arrested.
There were more surprises to come for Ramsey, other neighbors and the police. Also found in the house were Gina DeJesus, 23, who had been missing for nine years, and Michelle Knight, 30, who had been missing for 11 years.
Neighbor Mike Iwais, who has lived for years in a house just a couple of hundred feet from where the women were found, told The Plain Dealer newspaper of his shock.
“I used to see him walking around all the time,” the paper quoted him as saying. “But I never saw nothing crazy. This is unbelievable. It’s a miracle they found him, and it’s a miracle those girls are alive. It’s a blessing from God.”
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EXCLUSIVE PICTURES INSIDE THE CLEVELAND KIDNAP HOUSE: Son of ‘abductor’ reveals how father padlocked doors to basement, attic and garage because ‘we weren’t allowed to go there’
- Photos show Ariel Castro in front of padlocked doors to the basement
- Son Anthony, 31, revealed how his father would beat him and once nearly beat his mother to death as she recovered from brain surgery
- Expressed his shock at the kidnappings and said they had no idea women were hidden behind the doors they were forbidden from opening
- But said his sister believes their father was capable of the crimes
- Just three weeks ago, Castro asked his son whether he thought police would ever find one of the victims, Amanda Berry
By Michael Zennie In Columbus, Ohio
PUBLISHED: 14:38 EST, 7 May 2013 | UPDATED: 16:55 EST, 7 May 2013
Ariel Castro padlocked the doors leading to his basement, his attic and his garage and never allowed his family inside, his son has exclusively revealed to MailOnline.
Chilling photographs from 2001 show a grinning Castro, who is accused of holding three women captive for a decade, standing in front of a locked door – behind which unimaginable horrors may have been unfolding in the basement.
By that point, one of his alleged victims, Michele Knight, had already been missing for a year.
In an interview with MailOnline, his son Anthony Castro, 31, has spoken of his shock at his father’s alleged crimes and revealed how Ariel Castro asked him just weeks ago whether he believed the kidnapping of Amanda Berry – one of his victims – would ever be solved.
‘If it’s true that he took her captive and forced her into having sex with him and having his child and keeping her hidden and keeping them from sunlight, he really took those girls’ lives,’ he said.
Signs: In a photograph taken in 2001, suspect Ariel Castro stands with a former girlfriend in front of a padlocked door, which led to the basement, at his home on Seymore Avenue, Cleveland
‘He doesn’t deserve to have his own life anymore. He deserves to be behind bars for the rest of her life. I’m just thankful they’re alive.’
Among his infrequent contact with his father, who separated from his mother in the 1990s, one recent conversation particularly stands out in Anthony’s mind.
In mid-April, he says, his father asked him whether he thought police would ever find Amanda Berry, who escaped the Cleveland home on Monday afternoon.
When Anthony said he thought Berry was likely dead because she had been missing so long, Ariel responded: ‘Really? You think so?’
At that time, according to police, Berry was locked in the basement of his father’s home.
‘The house was always locked,’ remembered Anthony, who appeared visibly tired but reacted with poise throughout the interview. ‘There were places we could never go. There were locks on the basement. Locks on the attic. Locks on the garage.’
‘House of horrors’: Anthony Castro and his father stand in front of the door to the basement in 2001
Family: A photo from the late 1990’s shows Pedro Castro (top right) and his nephew Anthony (seated center)
Ariel Castro, 52, was arrested with his two brothers, 54-year-old Pedro and 50-year-old Onil after Berry, now 26, dramatically escaped from the house on Monday, a decade after she vanished.
Berry was rescued from the home, along with 23-year-old Gina DeJesus, who disappeared in April 2004 at age 14, and 32-year-old Michele Knight, who vanished in 2000 when she was 20.
The women and a six-year-old girl who was born to Berry while she was in captivity were whisked away to hospital. They have now been released and are in a safe location, authorities said.
Details have started to emerge of the horrors they experienced in the house, with authorities reportedly discovering chains and tape to restrain the girls inside the home.
Police sources also told NewsChannel5 that there were multiple pregnancies among the three women but that they suffered miscarriages after they were beaten or because they were so malnourished.
The Castros’ close links to the long-running investigation have also emerged. Pedro Castro told a TV crew last July that a police forensic excavation being conducted in the neighborhood for Berry’s body was ‘a waste of time’.
Shock: Anthony Castro has said he is horrified at news his father, Ariel Castro, allegedly kidnapped three girls and held them captive at his home for a decade. Anthony’s uncles have also been arrested
Missed: Anthony said his mother moved them from Castro’s home following years of abuse
Speaking to MailOnline on Tuesday, Anthony Castro, a banker who lives in Columbus, Ohio, depicted his father as a violent, controlling man who nearly beat his mother to death in 1993 while she was recovering from brain surgery.
‘Abused’: Anthony said his father beat his mother, Nilda Figueroa, who passed away last year
Speaking to MailOnline from his apartment, which is dotted with numerous family pictures, Anthony said his father was secretive and barred him from entering certain rooms when he wasn’t around.
Anthony said he last visited his father’s home two weeks ago, though he was not invited inside. He said he never suspected that his father could be keeping three women captive in the basement.
‘The only thing I can express is a tremendous level of shock,’ he said. ‘To those girls, it’s beyond comprehension what happened to them. It’s just a nightmare. I just feel so horrible for them. Unspeakably horrible.’
Ariel’s ex-wife Grimilda ‘Nilda’ Figueroa – Anthony’s mother – moved Mr Castro and his three sisters out of Ariel’s house in 1996 after years of violent abuse.
Anthony said he now speaks with his father just a few times a year – and seldom visits his house.
‘I haven’t been at that house for longer than 20 minutes for longer than I can remember,’ he said. ‘And we’re talking since high school. Late 90s.’
Anthony said neither he nor his three sisters have had much of a relationship with Ariel Castro.
‘Having that relationship with my dad all these years when we lived in a house where there was domestic violence and I was beaten as well… we never were really close because of that and it was also something we never really talked about,’ he said.
Painful memories: Anthony, pictured looking through old family photos, said he rarely spoke to his father