'I thought this girl was dead'
A neighbour describes how he helped rescue Amanda Berry escape from her abductor's house in Cleveland, Ohio. The three rescued women had been missing for ten years.PT1M33S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2j52j 620 349 May 7, 2013
"Help me! I'm Amanda Berry ... I've been kidnapped and I've been missing for 10 years and I'm here, I am free now."
With those words, a shaken but exuberant Amanda Berry announced her freedom to a US emergency services operator after a decade of captivity.
I heard screaming ... and I see this girl going nuts trying to get outside of the house
Two other women, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight, missing for years, were also found at a suburban Cleveland home, ending years of heartbreaking search by their families.
Found: Amanda Berry, left, and Gina DeJesus. Photo: Reuters
Cheering crowds gathered on Monday night on the street near the home where police found the girls. Initially, a 52-year-old man was arrested. The Cleveland police later confirmed the multiple arrests without providing names.
‘‘The Cleveland Division of Police confirms that there are now three suspects under arrest. All three are Hispanic males, ages 50, 52 and 54.
"Due to Amanda's brave actions, these three women are alive today": Cleveland police chief Michael McGrath speaks at a press conference. Photo: AFP
‘‘At this time, a search warrant is being executed at 2207 Seymour Avenue,’’ the Cleveland Division of Police said. A media conference will be held on Tuesday at 9am local time.
One suspect, thought to be named Ariel Castro, is the father of a journalist at the NBC affiliate station in Cleveland, also named Ariel Castro.
As a journalism student in 2004, Castro Jr wrote an article on the disappearance of DeJesus. Reporter Sara Shookman of WKYC in Cleveland confirmed the identity of Castro Jr and quoted the son as saying on Monday: "This is beyond comprehension ... I'm truly stunned right now."
Investigation: members of the FBI evidence team remove items from the house. Photo: AP
The Associated Press reported that all three men being held were brothers.
End of the nightmare
DeJesus went missing at age 14 on her way home from school in 2004. 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. Knight reportedly went missing in 2002.
Years of captivity: the home where the missing women were found. Photo: AP
The end of a nightmare came for the young women after a neighbour spotted Berry screaming and trying to get out of the house.
"I heard screaming ... and I see this girl going nuts trying to get outside of the house," Charles Ramsey, a neighbour who found the women, told the local ABC affiliate on Monday.
"I go on the porch and she said: 'Help me get out. I’ve been here a long time'."
Crowds flocked to the scene after the girls were found. Photo: Screengrab
Ramsey said he tried to get her out through the door but could not pull it open, so he kicked out the bottom and she crawled through "carrying a little girl".
Police arrived a few minutes later and discovered the two other women.
"All three women, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight, seem to be in good health," Cleveland police said in a statement.
Investigators search for evidence at the house. Photo: AP
The suspected kidnapper
Ramsey also said he knew the suspected kidnapper.
"We see this dude every day ... I barbecue with this dude." But Ramsey said he had "not a clue" that girls had been hidden in the man's house against their will.
Made a call to emergency services: Amanda Berry. Photo: Reuters
"He was somebody you look at and then look away because he's not doing anything ... There was nothing exciting about him ... until today."
The mayor of Cleveland, Frank Jackson, welcomed the news of the rescue.
"I am thankful that Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight have been found alive," Jackson said. "We have many unanswered questions regarding this case and the investigation will be ongoing. Again, I am thankful that these three young ladies are found and alive."
Gina DeJesus: went missing aged 14. Photo: Reuters
They were found just a few kilometres from where they had gone missing.
As news of the girls' rescue emerged, loved ones said they hadn't given up hope of seeing Berry and DeJesus again. Among them was Kayla Rogers, a childhood friend of DeJesus.
"I've been praying, never forgot about her, ever," Rogers told The Plain Dealer. "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."
Found alive: Gina DeJesus. Photo: AP
Berry's cousin Tasheena Mitchell told the newspaper she couldn't wait to have Berry in her arms.
"I'm going to hold her, and I'm going to squeeze her and I probably won't let her go," she said.
In January, a prison inmate was sentenced to 4½ years after admitting he provided a false burial tip in the disappearance of Berry, who had last been seen the day before her 17th birthday. A judge in Cleveland sentenced Robert Wolford on his guilty plea to obstruction of justice, making a false report and making a false alarm.
Last summer, Wolford tipped authorities to look for Berry's remains in a Cleveland lot. He was taken to the location, which was dug up with backhoes.
Berry's mother, Louwana Miller, who had been hospitalised for months with pancreatitis and other ailments, died in March 2006. She had spent the previous three years looking for her daughter, whose disappearance took a toll as her health steadily deteriorated, family and friends said.
Two men arrested for questioning in the disappearance of DeJesus in 2004 were released from the city jail in 2006 after officers did not find her body during a search of the men's house.
One of the men was transferred to the Cuyahoga County Jail on unrelated charges, while the other was allowed to go free, police said.
In September 2006, police acting on a tip tore up the concrete floor of the garage and used a cadaver dog to search unsuccessfully for DeJesus' body. Investigators confiscated 19 pieces of evidence during their search but declined to comment on the significance of the items then.
No Amber 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 Amber Alert angered her father, Felix DeJesus, who said in 2006 he believed the public will listen even if the alerts become routine.
"The Amber Alert should work for any missing child," Felix DeJesus said then. "It doesn't have to be an abduction. Whether it's an abduction or a runaway, a child needs to be found. We need to change this law."
Cleveland police said then that the alerts must be reserved for cases in which danger is imminent and the public can be of help in locating the suspect and child.
Ramsey said he only realised it was the girl who had been missing for years after he helped her call the police.
"When she told me, it didn't register. Until I got to call 911 and then I thought "'I've got to call for Amanda Berry? I thought she was dead.'"