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Americas

Kidnapped Ohio women found alive after 10 years

©

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-05-07

Three brothers were arrested Monday after three young women who went missing separately about a decade ago were found alive in a house near their last known whereabouts in Cleveland, Ohio. The women escaped after attracting the help of a neighbour.

Three women who went missing separately about a decade ago were found Monday in a Cleveland, Ohio, home and likely had been tied up during years of captivity, said police, who arrested three brothers.

"The Cleveland Division of Police confirms that there are now three suspects under arrest. All three are Hispanic males, ages 50, 52 and 54," it said on its official Facebook account, adding that a residence was being searched.

The three missing women, believed abducted separately, were found near where they were last seen.

Police said they were alerted to the whereabouts of the women by a frantic emergency call from Amanda Berry, who was freed from the house by a neighbour who said he heard screaming and came to help her.

“Help me! I’m Amanda Berry. ... I’ve been kidnapped and I’ve been missing for 10 years and I’m here. I’m free now,” Berry, 26, is heard frantically telling a 911 operator in a recording of the call released by police.

Berry gave the name of her alleged abductor, said he was “out of the house” and urged police to come quickly.

‘Thought she was dead’

The neighbour, Charles Ramsey, said in an interview broadcast by American media that when he arrived, Berry appeared desperate to get through the door, but was unable to open the door.

“I see this girl going nuts trying to get outside,” he said, adding that he was astonished when she identified herself.

Kidnap victim's 911 call

“Then I realised I’m calling 911 for Amanda Berry. I thought that girl was dead,” he said. Berry emerged from the house “with her daughter,” he added. Police have yet to confirm whether children were present at the house.

“This story has the potential for being gruesome… depending on what exactly happened in that home,” FRANCE 24’s correspondent Philip Crowther reported from Washington.

The two women found with Berry were identified by authorities as Gina DeJesus, 23, who vanished in 2004 at age 14, and Michelle Knight, who is thought to have been 20 when she disappeared more than a decade ago.

All three women were taken to a local hospital, MetroHealth Medical Center, where Dr Gerald Maloney told a news conference they were all “safe” and “appear to be in fair condition.”

“This isn’t the ending we usually have to these stories, so we’re very happy. We’re very happy for them,” Maloney said.

During her 911 call Berry indicated that she knew her disappearance had been widely reported in the media. “She suggested that the police should know who she is because she had been on the TV for 10 years,” Crowther said.

The suspects were arrested based on information given to investigators by the three women after their rescue, according to Deputy Cleveland Police Chief Ed Tomba, who said the women had probably been held in that house since they vanished. “One of the brothers is believed to have lived at the address where the women were found,” Crowther reported.

One of the men was identified earlier as Ariel Castro, 52, a bus driver for Cleveland public schools.

Public cheer

Cheering crowds gathered Monday night on the street near the home where the women were found cheered as police cars drove into the cordoned-off area around the house.

Berry disappeared on the day before her 17th birthday at age 16 on April 21, 2003, when she called her sister to say she was getting a lift home from her job at a Burger King.

DeJesus went missing at age 14 on her way home from school about a year later. Police said Knight went missing in 2002 and is 32 now.

City Councilwoman Dona Brady, a friend of the family, told Reuters that Berry’s grief-stricken mother had died at age 47, essentially from a broken heart.

A cousin of DeJesus, Sheila Figaro, told CNN that the girl’s mother, Nancy, “never gave up faith knowing that her daughter would one day be found. What a phenomenal Mothers’ Day gift she gets this Mothers’ Day.”

The suspects’ uncle, Caesar Castro, who owns a grocery store on the same street, said Ariel Castro owned the house where the women were found. He added that members of his family and the family of DeJesus “grew up together”.

No special 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 alert angered her father, Felix DeJesus, who said in 2006 he believed the public will listen even if the alerts become routine.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson expressed gratitude that the three women were found alive. “I am thankful that Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight have been found alive,” he said. “We have many unanswered questions regarding this case, and the investigation will be ongoing.”

Dozens of police officers and sheriff’s deputies remained at the scene late Monday awaiting a warrant to search the building where the women and the child were found.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-05-07

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