Missing Women Found Alive
CLEVELAND – The voice of the long-missing woman was frantic and breathless, choking back tears. “Help me. I’m Amanda Berry,” she told a 911 dispatcher. “I’ve been kidnapped and I’ve been missing for 10 years and I’m, I’m here, I’m free now.”
Those words led police to a house near downtown Cleveland where Berry and two other women who went missing a decade ago were found on Monday, elating family members and friends who’d longed to see them again.
Authorities later arrested three brothers. They released no names and gave no information about them or what charges they might face.
City officials held a news conference for this morning.
Police Chief Michael McGrath said he thinks Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were tied up at the house and held there since they were in their teens or early 20s.
A 6-year-old also was found in the home, but police didn’t disclose the child’s identity or relationship to anyone in the home. The women appeared to be in good health and were taken to a hospital to be evaluated and be reunited with relatives.
The women’s escape and rescue began with a frenzied cry for help.
A neighbor, Charles Ramsey, said he heard screaming Monday and saw Berry, whom he didn’t recognize, at a door that 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.
On a recorded 911 call Monday, Berry declared, “I’m Amanda Berry. I’ve been on the news for the last 10 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 the man returned.
“I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years,” she told the dispatcher. “And I’m here. I’m free now.”
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 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 who was arrested, a 52-year-old, lived at the home, and the others, ages 50 and 54, lived elsewhere.
Ramsey, the neighbor, said he’d barbecued with the home’s owner and never suspected anything 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 911 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.