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3 Brothers Arrested In Decade-Old Cleveland Kidnapping Cases
Originally published on Tue May 7, 2013 11:04 am
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
On a Tuesday, it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
And I'm Steve Inskeep.
We're tracking an amazing story out of Cleveland. Three women who went missing as teenagers about a decade ago, in separate cases, have been found alive together. They were not far from where they disappeared. Two of had had been feared dead, until yesterday when police received this 911 call.
AMANDA BERRY: Help me, I'm Amanda Berry.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: You need police, fire or ambulance?
BERRY: I need police.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: OK. And what's going on there?
BERRY: I've been kidnapped and I've been missing for ten years. And I'm here. I'm free now.
INSKEEP: Family members and friends of the three women are ecstatic. And three brothers have been arrested.
Bill Rice reports from member station WCPN in Cleveland.
BILL RICE, BYLINE: Amanda Berry disappeared in April 2003, a day shy of her 17th birthday. She was last seen leaving her job at Burger King not far from her home on Cleveland's west side. It's unclear if she's been a prisoner in the modest two-story house on Seymour Avenue, just across the river from downtown all these years, or if this was her first chance to escape. What is clear is that yesterday she frantically summoned a neighbor through a locked window.
That neighbor was Charles Ramsey.
CHARLES RAMSEY: I heard her screaming. I'm eating my McDonald's. I come outside. I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of her house. So I go on the porch and she says help me get out. I've been in here a long time.
RICE: Ramsey says he kicked in the bottom of the door.
RAMSEY: And she comes out with a little girl and says call 911.
RICE: When police arrived, they entered the house and found Gina DeJesus, now 23, who disappeared in 2004 on her way home from school, and Michelle Knight, who went missing in 2002. She's now 30 years old.
When Berry and DeJesus vanished, police worked their cases, while family and friends posted fliers and held numerous vigils. Knight was 20 when she disappeared, she didn't draw the same attention from police.
Authorities have arrested three brothers - all in their 50's - including the owner of the house, Ariel Castro. His uncle, Julio Castro, says his nephew is a former school bus driver. Berry also identifies Ariel Castro in her 911 call. Neighbors say Castro would park his red pickup truck behind his house, lock the gate and enter though a back door. The house was often dark, with shades blocking the windows.
Rescuer Charles Ramsey says he never saw Castro do anything suspicious.
RAMSEY: He just comes out to his backyard, plays with the dogs, tinkers with his cars and with his motorcycles, goes back in the house So he's just somebody who you look and then look away, 'cause he's not doing nothing but the average stuff.
RICE: The three women spent the night at Cleveland's MetroHealth Medical Center, where doctors describe their condition as fair and say they're speaking to authorities.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
RICE: Last night, residents of this working-class neighborhood flocked to the hospital to celebrate.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: We love Gina. We love Gina.
RICE: Back in the neighborhood where the women were found, neighbors like Ashley Allen were out on the street. Allen says finding the women alive in her neighborhood is a huge surprise.
ASHLEY ALLEN: Everybody is around this neighborhood and nobody suspected anything from the house, or anywhere around here.
RICE: Deputy Police Chief Edward Tomba says investigators exhausted every lead they could find in searching for Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus. He says it's a dramatic day for police too.
EDWARD TOMBA: It was just amazing to see the emotion on these seasoned law enforcement officers when they went in there and saw Amanda and Gina and Michelle.
RICE: Berry says DeJesus's families have for years worked together to keep the cases in the public eye. Michelle Knight's grandmother says her family thought Knight had left of her own volition.
Details of the women's stories will become more evident in the days and weeks to come. For now, many here are simply overjoyed that the horrible ordeal they lived through is over.
For NPR News, I'm Bill Rice in Cleveland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.