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3 brothers arrested for Cleveland kidnapping

10:24 AM, May 7, 2013   |    comments
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CLEVELAND (USA TODAY) -  Three young women who were held captive in a residential home for as long as a decade are in 'fairly good" physical condition and have been returned to their families, but police -- who have arrested three middle-aged brothers in the case -- said Tuesday they will move slowly before pressing the women for details on their ordeal.

"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 -- Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight -- were freed after Berry's screams late Monday afternoon alerted a neighbor, who helped her slip through a small opening in a door.

Also freed was a 6-year-old girl believed to be Berry's daughter, police said. 

"Amanda is the real hero," said Tomba. "This is the one that got this rolling."

Authorities declined to say whether the women were restrained or if any of them had been sexually assaulted.

Cleveland police say three women who went missing as teenagers about a decade ago have been found alive.

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.

The three were identified as brothers, Ariel Castro, 52, the owner of the house and a former Cleveland school bus driver, Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50.

Police said authorities investigated Ariel Castro in January 2004 after he left a child in a school bus at the depot. All questioning took place outside of his home. No charges were filed in the case, police said Tuesday.

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.

Cleveland resident Charles Ramsey thought he was witnessing a domestic dispute when he heard a woman screaming, trying to get out of a house. He was shocked to find that three women were allegedly held hostage near his home for years. 

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.

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.

 

USA TODAY

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