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3 missing women found in Ohio, 3 brothers arrested

CLEVELAND (AP) — Three women who went missing separately about a decade ago were found Monday in a home just south of downtown and likely had been tied up during years of captivity, said police, who arrested three brothers. One of the women said she had been abducted and told a 911 dispatcher in a frantic call, "I'm free now."

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BERRY

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Crowds gathered Monday night on the street near the home where the city's police chief said he thought Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight had been held since they went missing when they were in their teens or early 20s.

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 6-year-old also was found in the home, but the child's identity or relationship to anyone in the home wasn't revealed.

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 911 call Monday, Berry declared, "I'm Amanda Berry. I've been on the news for the last 10 years."

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Neighbor Charles Ramsey speaks to media Monday near the home on the 2200 block of Seymour Avenue, where three missing women were rescued in Cleveland. (AP Photo/The Plain Dealer, Scott Shaw)

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.

"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, 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.

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Cleveland Police stand outside a home Monday where they say missing women, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight were found in the 2200 block of Seymour Avenue in Cleveland.  (AP Photo/Plain Dealer, Scott Shaw)

 

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 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.

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.

A childhood friend of DeJesus, Kayla Rogers, said she couldn't wait to hug her.

"I've been praying, never forgot about her, ever," Rogers told The Plain Dealer newspaper.

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.

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.

Mayor Frank Jackson expressed gratitude that the three women were found alive. He said there are many unanswered questions in the ongoing investigation.

At Metro Health Medical Center, Dr. Gerald Maloney wouldn't discuss the women's conditions in detail but said they were being evaluated by appropriate specialists.

"This is really good, because this isn't the ending we usually hear in these stories," he said. "So, we're very happy."

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. 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.

Two men arrested for questioning in the disappearance of DeJesus in 2004 were released from the city jail in 2006 after officers didn't 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.

 

Frantic 911 call leads to 3 missing women 

JOHN COYNE,Associated Press
THOMAS J. SHEERAN,Associated Press

A transcript of the 911 call placed Monday by a woman missing since 2003, when she was 16.

(unintelligible)

Caller: Help me. I'm Amanda Berry.

Dispatcher: You need police, fire, ambulance?

Caller: I need police.

Dispatcher: OK, and what's going on there?

Caller: I've been kidnapped and I've been missing for 10 years, and I'm, I'm here, I'm free now.

Dispatcher: OK, and what's your address?

Caller: 2207 Seymour Avenue.

Dispatcher: 2207 Seymour. Looks like you're calling me from 2210.

Caller: Huh?

Dispatcher: Looks like you're calling me from 2210.

Caller: I can't hear you.

Dispatcher: Looks like you're calling me from 2210 Seymour.

Caller: I'm across the street; I'm using the phone.

Dispatcher: OK, stay there with those neighbors. Talk to police when they get there.

Caller: (Crying)

Dispatcher: OK, talk to police when they get there.

Caller: OK. Hello?

Dispatcher: OK, talk to the police when they get there.

Caller: OK (unintelligible).

Dispatcher: We're going to send them as soon as we get a car open.

Caller: No, I need them now before he gets back.

Dispatcher: All right; we're sending them, OK?

Caller: OK, I mean, like ...

Dispatcher: Who's the guy you're trying -- who's the guy who went out?

Caller: Um, his name is Ariel Castro.

Dispatcher: OK. How old is he?

Caller: He's like 52.

Dispatcher: And, uh -

Caller: I'm Amanda Berry. I've been on the news for the last 10 years.

Dispatcher: I got, I got that, dear. (Unintelligible) And, you say, what was his name again?

Caller: Uh, Ariel Castro.

Dispatcher: And is he white, black or Hispanic?

Caller: Uh, Hispanic.

Dispatcher: What's he wearing?

Caller (agitated): I don't know, 'cause he's not here right now. That's why I ran away.

Dispatcher: When he left, what was he wearing?

Caller: Who knows (unintelligible).

Dispatcher: The police are on their way; talk to them when they get there.

Caller: Huh? I - OK.

Dispatcher: I told you they're on their way; talk to them when they get there, OK.

Caller: All right, OK. Bye.

___

Source: Cleveland law department

CLEVELAND (AP) — 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 have scheduled a news conference for Tuesday 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, told WEWS-TV 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.

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.

A childhood friend of DeJesus, Kayla Rogers, said she couldn't wait to hug her.

"I've been praying, never forgot about her, ever," Rogers told The Plain Dealer newspaper.

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.

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.

Mayor Frank Jackson expressed gratitude that the three women were found alive. He said there are many unanswered questions in the ongoing investigation.

At Metro Health Medical Center, Dr. Gerald Maloney wouldn't discuss the women's conditions in detail but said they were being evaluated by appropriate specialists.

"This is really good, because this isn't the ending we usually hear in these stories," he said. "So, we're very happy."

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. 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.

Two men arrested for questioning in the disappearance of DeJesus in 2004 were released from the city jail in 2006 after officers didn't 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.

___

Associated Press writer Kantele Franko in Columbus contributed to this report.

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