Three longtime missing women, Amanda Berry,
Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, have been
found alive, apparently kidnapped and held for
years as prisoners inside a house on Cleveland’s
near West Side.
Berry called police Monday afternoon and
frantically told a dispatcher that she was
alive and free after being kidnapped 10 years
ago and held captive in a house on Seymour
“We’ve confirmed it’s them,” a Cleveland
detective said. “They are alive and safe.” Police
have scheduled a news conference for 9 a.m.
Berry, now 27, DeJesus, 23, and Knight, 30, were
taken to MetroHealth Medical Center. The FBI
and police will interview the women, the
DeJesus, missing for nine years, and Knight,
missing for 11 years, were with her.
Police arrested three brothers, ages 50, 52 and
54. Police did not release names.
But neighbors said one of them is the owner of
the house, Ariel Castro, 52, a Cleveland school
bus driver until last November who had lived in
the two-story house since 1992. Records show he
was arrested for domestic violence in 1993, but a
grand jury declined to indict him.
Police were searching the house and yard
Monday night and into this morning.
Berry was the first to get out of the house,
escaping through a broken door. A child came
out behind her. Police then came and rescued
the other two women, who were taken to the
hospital. It wasn’t immediately known who the
Dr. Gerald Maloney, emergency room doctor at
MetroHealth, said in a news conference Monday
night that the three women were in fair
“They are able to speak, they are safe, and
hospital staff are assessing their needs and
evaluating if they will spend the night,” he said.
“This is good. This is not the ending we usually
see from these stories.”
Knight, who was 19 at the time of her
disappearance, was last seen at a cousin’s house
near West 106th Street and Lorain Avenue on
Aug. 23, 2002.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson released a
statement Monday expressing gratitude that the
three women were found alive.
“We have many unanswered questions
regarding this case, and the investigation will be
ongoing,” Jackson wrote.
Outside of MetroHealth, a large crowd awaited
word on the women’s condition.
Berry’s cousin, Tasheena Mitchell, 26, who was
16 years old when Berry disappeared, said her
brother had called to tell her the news that Berry
is alive. But she said she received it skeptically,
having had her hopes dashed by false reports in
“She was my best friend,” Mitchell said.
A friend interrupted her, “She’s alive. She is your
“You’re right,” Mitchell continued. “She is my
best friend. I’m so nervous. I’m so excited. They
won’t let me inside. But I will stay here all night
if I have to.”
Drivers passing the hospital and the
neighborhood honked their car horns in
support, while police protected the rescued
women’s relatives from a crush of TV news
cameras and reporters.
Many in the crowd hugged and cried.
“They don’t find people who go missing, you
know,” said Kayla Rogers, 23, who waited at the
hospital for news of her friend. She attended
Almira Elementary and Wilbur Wright Middle
School with DeJesus. “I’m at a loss for words.”
Rogers said she only attended one vigil over the
years because it was too painful.
As the crowd grew outside of Castro’s house,
details about the mysterious resident circulated.
Jannette Gomez, 50, who often visits family and
friends on the street, said Castro would park his
motorcycle and red pickup truck behind the
house, lock the gate and enter the house through
a back door.
Occasionally, he would turn on a dim porch light,
but the house was always dark, Gomez said.
Shades blocked the windows, and at least one
window was boarded up.
Gomez said he never had much to say, she said.
He would say ‘Hi’ back, but there was never
Castro’s uncle, Julio Castro, who owns a store
called Caribe at the corner of West 25th Street
and Seymour, said he had mixed emotions about
“For me, it’s bad on one side and good on the
Julio Castro said his nephew used to play bass in
various bands that performed at a local club
once owned by DeJesus’ uncle. He said he
believes his nephew knew the family from the
club and the neighborhood.
Charlie Czorba, a Caribe customer who lives on
Seymour, said he was stunned by how long the
women had lived at the house undetected.
“This is our own backyard,” he said. “These girls
were locked up in our own backyard.”
Another neighbor, Victor Pratts, who has lived
on the street for about 25 years, said Ariel Castro
would occasionally come out and ride a four-
wheeler with him. But Pratts said he never saw
any of the three women enter or exit the house.
Aurora Marti, 75, who lives across the street
from Castro, said she was sitting on her
neighbor’s front porch talking Monday evening
when an arm reached out of the front door at
“She was waving her arm and saying, ‘Help me!
Help me!’ ” Marti recalled through her daughter,
who translated from her mother’s Spanish.
The captive woman identified herself as Amanda
Berry and said she was kidnapped 10 years ago.
Neighbor Charles Ramsey said he also heard a
girl screaming, “Help, help me out.” He said the
girl looked familiar. He said he called 9-1-1.
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.
Ramsey said he knew Castro, had even eaten ribs
with him — and had no idea the women or the
child was in the house.
“We never thought that man would do anything
to anybody,” Pratts said. “He was a bus driver.”
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
Michelle Knight’s grandmother, Deborah Knight,
said she had not yet heard from police but was
waiting for some kind of verification that one of
the women is really her granddaughter.
Although Michelle Knight was reported missing
more than a decade ago, family members
concluded that she probably left on her own
because she was angry that her son was
removed from her custody, the grandmother
said. She said her daughter believed she had last
seen Michelle Knight several years ago in a van
with an older man at a shopping plaza on West
A June 2004 story that appeared in the Plain
Press, a West Side neighborhood newspaper,
was written by someone named Ariel Castro and
described the community’s anxiety since the
disappearance of DeJesus and Berry. A Plain
Press spokesman said the Ariel Castro who
wrote for the publication was a journalism
student whose relationship to the man in
custody is not known.
The author interviewed DeJesus’ mother, Nancy
Ruiz, and a group of parents waiting for their
children to be released from Wilbur Wright
Middle School. They spoke of the need for
greater security and the fear that had settled
upon the neighborhood.
“For seven weeks, Gina’s family has been
organizing searches, holding prayer vigils,
posting fliers and calling press conferences,”
Castro wrote. “Despite the many tips and rumors
that have been circulating in the neighborhood,
there has been no sign of her. One thing is for
certain, however. Almost everyone feels a
connection with the family, and Gina’s
disappearance has the whole area talking.”
Piled from cleveland.com