Cry For Help Led To Freedom For Missing Women In Cleveland

May 7, 2013
Originally published on November 14, 2013 7:43 am

(Most recent update: 11:40 a.m. ET. Click here to see how we cover stories such as this.)

"Help! Help me!"

A young woman's desperate cries alerted neighbors Monday to a frightening tale in Cleveland.

As we reported last evening, three young women who had gone missing between 2002 and 2004 were found Monday afternoon inside a home where the shades were said to be always drawn. No one who lives nearby seems to have suspected that there might be kidnapping victims inside.

The women are Amanda Berry (27), Gina DeJesus (23) and Michelle Knight (32), whose disappearances generated much attention in local media over the past decade. Three brothers in their 50s have been arrested.

According to The Associated Press: "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. About a year later, DeJesus vanished at age 14 on her way home from school. Police said Knight disappeared in 2002 and is 32 now." They are being treated at a Cleveland area hospital, where they're reported to be in fair condition.

As Tuesday dawns, we're learning more about how the women were discovered and what neighbors say about the man who they would see coming and going from the home.

On Morning Edition, WCPN's Bill Rice played a clip from a frantic 911 call Berry made after her escape. "Help me, I'm Amanda Berry. ... I've been kidnapped and been missing for 10 years. I am here, I'm free now," she says. (A transcript of her call is posted here.)

Rice also reported on neighbor Charles Ramsey's account of Berry's cries for help from inside the house.

"I heard screaming," Ramsey said. "I come outside I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of the house. So I go on the porch and she says help me get out. I've been in here a long time."

Ramsey says Berry was pushing her hand out of part of a door as she yelled. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "Ramsey said Castro took off running while Ramsey kicked and broke the bottom of a door, allowing Berry to crawl out. Police arrested Castro at a nearby McDonald's restaurant and brought the other two women out of the house, witnesses said."

A young child also emerged from the home, according to local news reports.

As for Aerial Castro, the man who lived in the home, the Plain Dealer writes that "Mike Iwais, a longtime resident in the neighborhood, lives in a house just a parking lot away — about 200 feet — from Castro's house. 'I used to see him walking around all the time,' he said. 'But I never saw nothing crazy. This is unbelievable. It's a miracle they found him, and it's a miracle those girls are alive. It's a blessing from God.' "

On Morning Edition, WCPN's Rice reported that other neighbors "say Castro would park his red pickup truck behind his house, lock the gate and enter though a back door. The house was often dark, with shades blocking the windows." Rice also reported that:

"Rescuer Charles Ramsey says he never saw Castro do anything suspicious. 'He just comes out to his backyard, plays with the dogs, tinkers with his cars and with his motorcycles, and goes back in the house,' Ramsey said. "So he's just somebody who you look, and then look away, because he's not doing' nothin' but the average stuff.' "

Cleveland's NewsNet5 has more coverage here.

We'll be monitoring and plan to update as this story develops.

Update at 11:05 a.m. ET. An Audio Clip From Berry's 911 Call:

Update at 11 a.m. ET. The Latest From WCPN:

The three suspects — 52-year-old Ariel Castro, 54-year-old Pedro Castro and 50-year-old Onil Castro — are in custody and expected to be charged within the next 36 hours. (Note at 6:15 a.m. ET, May 7: After initial confusion about the spelling of Onil Castro's first name, authorities have now settled on Onil. We've updated to reflect that.)

Also:

"Department officials say their records show there were never any calls for service to Ariel Castro's home on Seymour Avenue, the location where the three women were rescued Monday evening. Police say Ariel worked as a Cleveland Schools bus driver, and was questioned once in connection with a child left on the bus, but no charges were ever filed in relation to the incident.

"Meanwhile, police say the three women appear to be in OK condition and were released from Metro Health Hospital earlier this morning."

Update at 9:45 a.m. ET. Suspects' Uncle Says Family Is Surprised:

CNN just spoke with Julio Castro, an uncle of the three men suspected of holding the young women against their will. The family's reaction to this news is a "surprise," Julio Castro said. He never had any reason to think that three young women (and a child) might be held captive in his nephew Ariel's home, Julio Castro said, and had not seen Ariel in recent years. As for how he thinks others will react to his news about members of his family, Julio said he trusts people will realize there's "a bad one in every family."

Update at 9:25 a.m. ET. Suspects Named, Child Is Thought To Be Berry's Daughter:

At a news conference now underway in Cleveland, Police Chief Michael McGrath identified the three brothers who are under arrest as Ariel Castro, 52, Pedro Castro, 54, and O'Neill (spelling not confirmed), 50.

Authorities also said that they believe the 6-year-old girl found at the home is Amanda Berry's daughter. They would not comment on the father's identity.

Update at 9:04 a.m. ET. VIDEO: Charles Ramsey talks about helping Amanda Berry and about the man who lived in the house.

Note: As happens when stories such as this are developing, there will likely be reports that turn out to be mistaken. We will focus on news being reported by NPR, other news outlets with expertise, and statements from authorities who are in a position to know what's going on. And if some of that information turns out to be wrong, we'll update.

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