Three women found alive in Ohio ten years after they disappeared

Tuesday 07 May 2013 22.12
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Police searching the house where three women were found after having been missing for ten years
Police searching the house where three women were found after having been missing for ten years
Amanda Berry told 911 that she had been missing for ten years and is 'free now'
Amanda Berry told 911 that she had been missing for ten years and is 'free now'
Amanda Berry was pictured in hospital after she was reunited with her sister
Amanda Berry was pictured in hospital after she was reunited with her sister
Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus (R) disappeared over ten years ago
Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus (R) disappeared over ten years ago
Ariel Castro was named as a suspect in the kidnappings
Ariel Castro was named as a suspect in the kidnappings

Three Ohio women, who disappeared separately a decade ago, have been found alive at a Cleveland house near where they were last seen.

Three brothers were arrested as suspects in their disappearances.

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 her assistance.

"Help me! I'm Amanda Berry. ... I've been kidnapped and I've been missing for ten years and I'm here. I'm free now," she told a 911 operator in a recording of the call released by police.

During the call, she gave the name of her alleged abductor, said he was "out of the house" and urged police to come quickly.

She indicated that she knew her disappearance had been widely reported in the media.

The two women found with Ms Berry were identified as Gina DeJesus, who vanished in 2004 aged 14, and Michelle Knight, who was reported to have been 20 when she disappeared over ten years 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," Dr Maloney said.

Charles Ramsey said in an interview broadcast by CNN that when he arrived at his neighbour's house, Ms Berry appeared desperate to get through the door, which did not open properly.

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

"Then I realised I'm calling 911 for Amanda Berry. I thought that girl was dead," he said.

He said Ms Berry had emerged from the house "with a little girl".

The six-year-old girl is believed to be Ms Berry's daughter.

The suspects, aged 50, 52 and 54, 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 men was identified earlier as Ariel Castro, 52, a bus driver for Cleveland public schools.

Crowds on the street where the women were found cheered as police cars drove into the cordoned-off area around the house.

Ms Berry was last seen leaving her job at a fast-food restaurant to go home on the day before her 17th birthday.

City councillor Dona Brady, a friend of the family, said that Ms Berry's grief-stricken mother had died at age 47, essentially from a broken heart.

A cousin of Ms DeJesus, Sheila Figaro, told CNN that the girl's mother, Nancy, "never gave up faith knowing that her daughter would one day be found".

She said: "What a phenomenal Mother's Day gift she gets this Mother's Day."

Ms DeJesus, who is now 23, was last seen walking home from school.

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 Ms DeJesus "grew up together".

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said: "I am thankful that Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight have been found alive."

"We have many unanswered questions regarding this case, and the investigation will be ongoing," he added.

The disappearance of Ms Knight did not attract the local media attention of the suspected abductions of Ms Berry and Ms DeJesus.

Her grandmother, Deborah Knight, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper that some family members had concluded, based in part on suggestions by police and social workers at the time, that she had run away.

Her mother Barbara Knight, who now lives in Florida, told the newspaper she never believed her daughter would have vanished without a trace on her own and that she kept searching long after police gave up looking for her.