Published May 07, 2013
As police and the FBI try to piece together how the three women and a 6-year-old girl, who police believe is the daughter of one of the women, remained captive in a house for more than a decade in a densely populated section of Cleveland, the women were released Tuesday from a local hospital and returned to their families.
"The real hero here is Amanda [Berry]," Cleveland's assistant police chief Ed Tomba said at a press conference.
The women were identified as Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. The three were treated in the MetroHealth Emergency Department Monday night and released on Tuesday morning. Authorities would not comment further on their conditions, saying only that they looked to be healthy and in need of a good meal. The women all lived within two miles of the suspect's home.
On Monday evening, neighbor Charles Ramsey told Fox 8 he heard screaming and found Berry at the door of the suspect's house and helped her call police.
Ramsey said the door would open only enough to fit a hand through. He said she was trying desperately to get outside and pleaded for help to reach police.
"I heard screaming," he said. "I'm eating my McDonald's. I come outside. I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of a house."
Neighbor Anna Tejeda was sitting on her porch with friends when they heard someone across the street kicking a door and yelling.
Tejeda, 50, said one of her friends went over and told Berry how to kick the screen out of the bottom of the door, which allowed her to get out.
Speaking Spanish, which was translated by one of her friends, Tejeda said Berry was nervous and crying. She was dressed in pajamas and old sandals.
At first Tejeda said she didn't want to believe who the young woman was. "You're not Amanda Berry," she insisted. "Amanda Berry is dead."
But when Berry told her she'd been kidnapped and held captive, Tejeda said she gave her the telephone to call police, who arrived within minutes and then took the other women from the house.
"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 can be heard saying on the frantic 911 call, made at 5:51 p.m. Monday.
She asks for police to respond "before he gets back" and then identifies her kidnapper as "Ariel Castro."
There was a 6-year-old found at the home believed to belong to Berry. Law enforcement sources say they are investigating allegations that three missing women found may have been pregnant multiple times, Fox8.com reported.
Cleveland's police chief says he believes the three women were tied up in the house where they were found and had been there since they disappeared.
Three brothers were arrested and will be charged in the case, authorities said.
The suspects were identified as Ariel Castro, 52, who lived at the home, and his brothers, Pedro and Onil, ages 54 and 50, respectively. The brothers lived at another location, authorities said.
"As far as investigations, we believe we've got three suspects," Ed Tomba, Cleveland's deputy police chief, said. "We're going to charge those suspects. We believe we have the people responsible."
Castro moved into the area in 1992. Neighbors considered him a loner who kept shades drawn over his windows and would only leave the home at night. In 1993, he was arrested for domestic violence, but a grand jury dropped the charges and he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.
Ramsey, the neighbor, said he'd barbecued with the home's owner and never suspected something was amiss.
"There was nothing exciting about him -- well, until today," he said.
Berry disappeared at age 16 on April 21, 2003, when she called her sister to say she was getting a ride home from her job at a Burger King.
DeJesus disappeared at age 14 on her way home from school about a year later. Police said Knight vanished in 2002 and is 32 now. They didn't provide current ages for the other two women.
Loved ones said they hadn't given up hope of seeing Berry and DeJesus again. Among them was Kayla Rogers, a childhood friend of DeJesus.
"I've been praying, never forgot about her, ever," Rogers told The Plain Dealer. "This is amazing. This is a celebration. I'm so happy. I just want to see her walk out of those doors so I can hug her."
Berry's cousin Tasheena Mitchell told the newspaper she couldn't wait to have Berry in her arms.
"I'm going to hold her, and I'm going to squeeze her and I probably won't let her go," she said.
In January, a prison inmate was sentenced to 4 1/2 years after admitting he provided a false burial tip in the disappearance of Berry, who had last been seen the day before her 17th birthday. A judge in Cleveland sentenced Robert Wolford on his guilty plea to obstruction of justice, making a false report and making a false alarm.
Last summer, Wolford tipped authorities to look for Berry's remains in a Cleveland lot. He was taken to the location, which was dug up with backhoes.
Berry's mother, Louwana Miller, who had been hospitalized for months with pancreatitis and other ailments, died in March 2006. She had spent the previous three years looking for her daughter, whose disappearance took a toll as her health steadily deteriorated, family and friends said.
Two men arrested for questioning in the disappearance of DeJesus in 2004 were released from the city jail in 2006 after officers did not find her body during a search of the men's house.
One of the men was transferred to the Cuyahoga County Jail on unrelated charges, while the other was allowed to go free, police said.
In September 2006, police acting on a tip tore up the concrete floor of the garage and used a cadaver dog to search unsuccessfully for DeJesus' body. Investigators confiscated 19 pieces of evidence during their search but declined to comment on the significance of the items then.
No Amber Alert was issued the day DeJesus failed to return home from school in April 2004 because no one witnessed her abduction. The lack of an Amber Alert angered her father, Felix DeJesus, who said in 2006 he believed the public will listen even if the alerts become routine.
"The Amber Alert should work for any missing child," Felix DeJesus said then. "It doesn't have to be an abduction. Whether it's an abduction or a runaway, a child needs to be found. We need to change this law."
Cleveland police said then that the alerts must be reserved for cases in which danger is imminent and the public can be of help in locating the suspect and child.
Anyone with information on the case is being asked to call the Cleveland FBI at 216-522-1400.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.