A miraculous discovery was made yesterday, as three girls who had been kidnapped and held for nearly a decade were all found alive in a house in Cleveland, OH. Amanda Berry (left) disappeared at age 16 on April 21, 2003, on her way home from her job at Burger King. Gina DeJesus (right) vanished at age 14 on her way home from school, about a year after Berry’s disappearance. Michelle Knight was also found in the house; she had disappeared in 2002 at age 20 and is 32 now. They were found just a few miles from where they had vanished.
It was late Monday night when neighbor, Anna Tejeda, was sitting on her porch with friends when they heard someone across the street kicking a door and yelling. Tejeda and one of her friends, Charles Ramsey, went over to investigate (video interview here). When they came upon the house, Ramsey said that the female inside was “going nuts on the door,” trying to open it. The girl was screaming, “Help me get out…We been in here for a long time.” Ramsey looked and saw that the door was locked and there was a small hole big enough to reach a hand through to grab the mail.
At first Tejeda said she didn't believe who the young woman was Amanda Berry, "Amanda Berry is dead,” Tejeda told her. But the young girl insisted, saying, “I'm Amanda Berry. I've been on the news for the last 10 years.” She said she had been taken by someone and begged for police officers to come to the home on Cleveland's west side before the man returned.
Tejeda then gave her the telephone to call police. “Help me. I'm Amanda Berry,” she told a 911 dispatcher in a frantic voice. “I've been kidnapped and I've been missing for 10 years and I'm, I'm here, I'm free now.” Police arrived within minutes and then took the other women from the house. Authorities later arrested three brothers. One of them, Ariel Castro, aged 52 and a former school bus driver for Cleveland schools, owned the home. His brothers were identified as Onil Castro, 50, and Pedro Castro, 54. Police Chief, Michael McGrath, said he thinks Berry, DeJesus and Knight were held in the house since they were in their teens.
A 6-year-old also was found in the home, and Cleveland police Deputy Chief Ed Tomba said Tuesday that the girl is believed to be Berry's daughter. He declined to say who the father was or where the child was born. The women appeared to be in good health, according to police. But Mr. Ramsey emphatically disagreed with that assessment, claiming that they looked like they were severely suffering from malnutrition. The girls were taken to a hospital to be evaluated and reunited with relatives. They were released to their families early this morning. Police said they were trying to be delicate in their questioning of the women, given the trauma they endured and that they want to give the women time to recover before debriefing them.
Police are actively seeking clues in the home, and the house will remain an active crime scene for several days. Police are expected to charge the men soon.