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Dramatic escape ends 10-year 'nightmare'
With one frantic 911 call on Monday evening, three women missing for years were found in a Cleveland house where they had been held against their will by three brothers, police in Ohio said.. The three women vanished between August 2002 and April 2004 in separate incidents; they were between 14 and 20 years old.
Neighbor Charles "Chuck" Ramsey, who lives across the street from the Castro home, never noticed anything amiss until Monday when he spotted Berry trying to get out. “This girl is kicking the door and screaming,” he said. “She says, ‘I’ve been kidnapped and I’ve been in this house a long time and I want to leave right now.’”
It was Berry, now 27, who brought the ordeal to an end, with a frantic 911 call on Monday evening. “Help me, I’m Amanda Berry,” she told the dispatcher. “I’ve been missing for 10 years and I’m out here. I’m free now.”
When police arrived, they were stunned to find not just Berry, but DeJesus, who had been missing since 2004, and Knight, whose 2002 disappearance did not generate the same concern or attention as that of the two younger girls.
“The nightmare is over,” said Cleveland FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen Anthony. “These three young ladies have provided us with the ultimate definition of survival and perseverance. The healing can now begin.”
The investigation is expected to last weeks. Authorities said they had not yet questioned Ariel Castro, 52, or his brothers Pedro, 54, and Onil, 50
Police, who had not fully debriefed the victims, provided little detail about their years in the house, including whether they were physically or sexually abused or how their kidnappers kept them from bolting.
Berry, who disappeared after leaving her job at a fast food restaurant in 2003, gave birth during her captivity and now has a 6-year-old child, police said. It wasn't clear who is the father.
Authorities seemed in awe of the young mother and bewildered that it took her kicking through a door to solve a case that years of running down tips, even digging up backyards, had failed to crack.
"The real hero here is Amanda," said Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba.
In 2004, Cleveland police showed up at Ariel Castro's home on Seymour Avenue after Castro, a school bus driver, left behind one of his young passengers.
When no one answered, the cops left — never realizing that behind the door were two women who had vanished off the streets and would remain captive until they were rescued this week, along with a third woman missing for almost a decade.
As the city celebrated the rescue of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, authorities said they were trying to figure out how Castro and two brothers had kept them out of sight for so long.
Cleveland Dept. of Public Safety Mug shots of the three brothers accused of holding three women captive for a decade or longer. From left to right, Ariel Castro, Onil Castro, Pedro Castro
A neighbor, Israel Lugo, said he called police in 2011 after his sister spotted a woman with a baby in the home, banging on the window "like she wants to get out." "The cops came. They pounded on that man’s door around 15, 20 times, real hard. They looked in the driveway, they got back in the squad car and left," he said on MSNBC.
Questions abound as to why the nightmare could not have been over nine years ago.
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