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HindustanTimes Mon,22 Dec 2014

World

Ohio women rescued decade after vanishing, three men arrested
Reuters
Cleveland, May 07, 2013
First Published: 08:52 IST(7/5/2013)
Last Updated: 02:00 IST(8/5/2013)

Three women who vanished as teenagers about a decade ago were discovered alive in a house in Cleveland, and the home's owner and his two brothers were arrested, police said on Tuesday.

Authorities were alerted to their whereabouts on Monday evening by a frantic emergency call from one of them, Amanda Berry, moments after she was freed from the house by a neighbor who said he heard screaming and came to her aid.

"Help me! I'm Amanda Berry. ... I've been kidnapped and I've been missing for 10 years and I'm here. I'm free now," Berry, now 27, can be heard telling a 911 operator in a recording of the call released by police.

Police descended upon the house within minutes to find Berry along with Gina DeJesus, who vanished in 2004, and Michelle Knight, who went missing in 2002 at age 20 and is now 32, police said at a news conference on Tuesday.

They also discovered a 6-year-old girl believed to be Berry's daughter, police said.

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Berry had last been seen leaving her job at a fast-food restaurant the day before her 17th birthday in April 2003, and DeJesus, now 23, was last seen walking home from school.

The three women were taken to MetroHealth Medical Center, where they were reunited with family and friends, and released on Tuesday, a spokeswoman said.

The owner of the house, Ariel Castro, 52, a school bus driver was arrested, as were his brothers Pedro, 54, and another brother, Onil, age 50, police said.

"We believe we have the people responsible," Cleveland Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba said at the news conference.

The house is close to where each woman was last seen, and police believe they were in the home for the entire time they were missing.

"The nightmare is over. These three young ladies have provided us with the ultimate definition of survival and perseverance," said FBI Special Agent Steve Anthony.

"Yes, law enforcement professionals do cry," he said.

The neighbor told police he helped Berry kick out the bottom of a screen door that was locked.

"The real hero is Amanda," Tomba said.

FBI and other law enforcement were searching the house, police said. Tomba said police were also interested in investigating other properties.

During her 911 call, Berry gave the name of a man she said had abducted her. She said he had left the house and urged police to come quickly. She indicated that she knew her disappearance had been widely reported in the media.

All three women were from the west-side section of Cleveland where they ultimately resurfaced.

There was no word on the fate of a fourth missing girl, Ashley Summers, who disappeared from the same vicinity in July of 2007 aged 14 and who police investigated as possibly linked to the Berry and DeJesus cases, according to the Charley Project website, which documents more than 9,000 missing-persons cases.

Mother kept searching
The disappearance of Knight did not attract the local media attention of the suspected abductions of Berry and DeJesus. Her grandmother, Deborah Knight, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper that some family members had concluded, based in part on suggestions by police and social workers at the time, that she had run away.

But her mother Barbara Knight, who now lives in Florida, told the newspaper she never believed her daughter would have vanished without a trace on her own and that she kept searching long after police gave up looking for her.

A woman who lived on the same street but asked not to be identified said Castro lived alone in the house. She said he drove her two daughters to school and would drop them off in front of her house.

"I'm totally in shock. He seems like a normal guy. He was a gentleman. We all call him Mr. C," she said.

A man who helped to look for DeJesus, Pastor Angel Arroyo, said he and her family members had handed out flyers in the neighborhood where she was found.

"We didn't search hard enough. She was right under our nose the whole time," Arroyo said.

A mood of jubilation pervaded the city as word spread that the women had been found alive, especially in the blue-collar, heavily Latino neighborhood where dozens of residents clustered near the house from which they were rescued.

A Puerto Rican flag hung from the porch of the modest, two-story dwelling, cordoned off with crime-scene tape.

City Councilwoman Dona Brady, a friend of the Berry family, told Reuters that Berry's grief-stricken mother had not survived to see her daughter rescued. "She literally died of a broken heart," Brady said, adding that the mother died aged 47.

A cousin of DeJesus, Sheila Figaro, told CNN that the girl's mother, Nancy, "never gave up faith knowing that her daughter would one day be found." "What a phenomenal Mother's Day gift she gets this Mother's Day," she said.

The discovery of the three women was reminiscent of the case of Jaycee Dugard, who was snatched from her northern California home at age 11 by a convicted sex offender, Phillip Garrido, and kept in captivity for 18 years before being rescued in 2009.

During that time she was repeatedly raped by her abductor and gave birth to two girls fathered by him.


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