3 Women Missing for Years Found; 3 Brothers Arrested

1:16 PM, May 7, 2013   |    comments
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Yamiche Alcindor and Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY

CLEVELAND -- Three middle-aged brothers were in police custody Tuesday while the three young women they allegedly abducted are home with their families for the first time in almost a decade.

Police say they want to give the three -- Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight -- time to adjust to their sudden bolt to freedom before pressing them on the grim details of what took place in a rundown, west side Cleveland home.

There were already signs that the women, two of whom were still teenagers when they were snatched off the street, had to endure sexual assaults and beatings.

Police said Tuesday they believe that a 6-year-old girl also found in the home is Berry's daughter. He declined to say who the father was or where the child was born.

Police have arrested three brothers, Ariel Castro, 52, the owner of the house and a former Cleveland school bus driver, Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50.

WKYC-TV, quoting unidentified police sources, reported Tuesday that the brothers allegedly forced the women to have sex, resulting in up to five pregnancies.

WKYC's Tom Meyer quoted one of the sources as saying the captors would beat the pregnant girls. Two sources are quoted as saying the babies did not survive.

Investigators worked all night at the house and again Tuesday gathering evidence and clues in the case. They have noted the presence of "disturbed" dirt in the backyard. WKYC says its source did not indicate whether that was related to the alleged pregnancies. WKYC says Cleveland police department did not immediately respond to queries about the reports.

Police, speaking to reporters Tuesday, said they were delaying the "deep questioning" of the three until they have had time to get reacquainted with relatives and begin to cope with the horrors of the past decade.

"Right now, we want to let them spend some time with their families and take this process very, very slowly and respectful for their families and the young girls' needs," Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba said at a news conference Tuesday.
The three set free Monday after Berry's screams alerted a neighbor, who helped her slip through a small opening in a door."Amanda is the real hero," said Tomba. "This is the one that got this rolling."Police rushed to the scene within two minutes after Berry called 911 from the neighbor's home. Police then freed the other two women.

The women were hospitalized in fair condition, but released to their families on Tuesday morning.

Police Chief Michael McGrath said the women's emotional well-being was the top priority. "After we get that stabilized, we will move forward with the debriefing process," he said.

Police also declined to elaborate on possible charges against the three suspects.
Neighbor Charles Ramsey, who was summoned to the house by Berry's screams for help, said he had had barbecue with Castro in the backyard and never saw anything amiss.

"There was nothing exciting about him – well, until today," he told WEWS-TV.

The stunning discovery of the three women ended a mystery that had perplexed the city for as long as a decade.

Each had gone missing separately. 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 from where they had disappeared.
Police said Knight, now 32, went missing in 2002. The Cleveland Plain Dealer quoted Michelle Knight's grandmother, Deborah Knight, as saying her daughter believed that Michelle was last seen several years ago in a van with an older man at a shopping plaza.

"I've been praying, never forgot about her, ever," Kayla Rogers, a childhood friend of DeJesus, told newspaper. "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."

The end to years of trauma ended within moments after Ramsey heard Berry's cries for help.

"I heard screaming," he told WEWS-TV. "I'm eating my McDonald's. I come outside. I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of a house."

Ramsey said the door was only wide enough for a hand to fit through, so they kicked out the bottom and made enough space for her to escape.
She quickly called 911. "I'm Amanda Berry. ... I've been kidnapped, and I've been missing for 10 years. And I'm here. I'm free now."

She said she had been taken by someone and begged for police officers to arrive at the house on Cleveland's west side before he returned.

In 2004, police went to Castro's home, which is about 3 miles from where Knight and Berry were last seen, but no one answered the door, police said.

Child welfare officials had alerted police that Castro, a school bus driver, apparently left a child unattended on a bus. Police later spoke to Castro and determined there was no criminal intent

Berry's mother, Louwana Miller, died in March 2006. She had spent the previous three years looking for her daughter.

Councilwoman Dona Brady said she had spent many hours with Miller, who never gave up hope that her daughter was alive.

"She literally died of a broken heart," Brady said.

In an odd twist, Ariel "Anthony' Castro, the 31-year-old son of suspect Ariel Castro, wrote in Plain Press, a community newspaper from Cleveland's west side, in 2004 about how DeJesus' disappearance had changed her neighborhood.

"(I)t's difficult to go any length of time without seeing Gina's picture on telephone poles, in windows, or on cars along the busy streets," wrote Castro, who studied journalism at Bowling Green State University.

He even quoted DeJesus' mother, Nancy Ruiz, as saying people had started looking after each other's children. "It's a shame that a tragedy had to happen for me to really know my neighbors," Castro quotes her s saying. "Bless their hearts, they've been great."

On Monday, Castro told WKYC's Sara Shookman about the his father's arrest: "This is beyond comprehension ... I'm truly stunned right now."

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