Three snatched teens found decade later
CLEVELAND (AP) — Three women who went missing separately about a decade ago were found in a home in the Midwestern U.S. city of Cleveland and likely had been tied up during years of captivity, said police, who arrested three brothers.
The women appeared to be in good health and were taken to a hospital to be evaluated and to reunite with relatives. Police said a six-year-old also was found in the home, but the child’s identity or relationship to anyone in the home wasn’t revealed.
One of the women, Amanda Berry, made a frantic telephone call to emergency services and told an emergency dispatcher that she had been abducted.
“I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for ten years,” she said. “And I’m here. I’m free now.”
Crowds gathered Monday night on the street near the home where the city’s police chief said he thought Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight had been held since they went missing when they were in their teens or early 20s.
Neighbors said they heard someone kicking at a door, yelling for help and trying desperately to get outside the house.
A neighbor, Charles Ramsey, told WEWS-TV he saw Berry, whom he didn’t recognize, at a door that would open only enough to fit a hand through.
“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.”
Anna Tejeda, who lives across the street, said Berry was nervous, crying and appeared dressed in pajamas and old sandals after she kicked out the screen in a door to escape and call police. Tejeda speaks Spanish, and a friend translated her comments to The Associated Press.
On a recorded emergency call Monday, Berry frantically declared, “I’m Amanda Berry. I’ve been on the news for the last ten years.”
She said she had been taken by someone and begged for police officers to arrive at the home on Cleveland’s west side before he returned.
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 went missing at age 14 on her way home from school about a year later. They were found just a few miles (kilometers) from where they had gone missing.
Police said Knight went missing in 2002 and is 32 now. They didn’t provide current ages for Berry or DeJesus.
Police said one of the brothers, a 52-year-old, lived at the home, and the others, ages 50 and 54, lived elsewhere. Authorities released no names and gave no details about them or what charges they might face.
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.
Julio Castro, who runs a grocery store half a block from where the women were found, said the homeowner arrested is his nephew, Ariel Castro.
Berry also identified Ariel Castro by name in her emergency call.
Attempts to reach Ariel Castro in jail were unsuccessful Monday. Messages to the sheriff’s office and a jail spokesman went unanswered, and there was no public phone listing for the home, which was being searched by dozens of police officers and sheriff’s deputies.
The uncle said Ariel Castro had worked as a school bus driver. The Cleveland school district confirmed he was a former employee but wouldn’t release details.
The women’s loved ones said they hadn’t given up hope of seeing them again. 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.
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.
Mayor Frank Jackson expressed gratitude that the three women were found alive. He said there are many unanswered questions in the ongoing investigation.