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Frantic 911 Call Ends Ordeal For 3 Long-Missing Women

By: CBS/AP
By: CBS/AP
Three women who went missing separately about a decade ago, when they were in their teens or early 20s, were found alive Monday in a residential area just south of downtown, and three men -- all brothers -- were arrested.

Amanda Berry, right, with her sister in a Cleveland hospital Monday, May 6, 2013. (Credit: WOIO/CBS)

The voice of the long-missing woman was frantic and breathless, choking back tears. "Help me. I'm Amanda Berry," she told a 911 dispatcher. "I've been kidnapped and I've been missing for 10 years and I'm, I'm here, I'm free now."

Those words led police to a house near downtown Cleveland where Berry and two other women who went missing a decade ago were found on Monday, elating family members and friends who'd longed to see them again.

Authorities later arrested three brothers: main suspect Ariel Castro, aged 52, a former Cleveland Metropolitan Schools bus driver who owned the home where the women were found; O'Neil Castro 50; and Pedro Castro, 54.

Police Chief Michael McGrath said he thinks Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were tied up at the house and held there since they were in their teens or early 20s.

"To find these three girls recovered well, it just gives us a boost," McGratch said Tuesday morning. "These leads came in over the years and were investigated time and again. Thankfully, due to Amanda's brave actions, these three women are alive today."

A 6-year-old also was found in the home, and police said they believe she is the daughter of Berry.

The women appeared to be in good health and were taken to a hospital to be evaluated and be reunited with relatives after being discovered. All three were released from the hospital as of Tuesday morning, reports CBS Cleveland afiliate WOIO-TV.

The women's escape and rescue began with a frenzied cry for help. WOIO-TV broadcast neighbor Charles Ramsey, the man who helped Berry escape, telling reporters he "didn't know who she was. She said her last name was Berry."

Neighbor Anna Tejeda was sitting on her porch with friends when they heard someone across the street kicking a door and yelling.

Tejeda, 50, said one of her friends went over and told Berry how to kick the screen out of the bottom of the door, which enabled her to get out.

Speaking Spanish, which was translated by one of her friends, Tejeda said Berry was nervous and crying. She was dressed in pajamas and old sandals.

At first, Tejeda said she didn't want to believe who the young woman was. "You're not Amanda Berry," she insisted. "Amanda Berry is dead."

But when Berry told her she'd been kidnapped and held captive, Tejeda said she gave her the telephone to call police, who arrived within minutes and then took the other women from the house.

On a recorded 911 call Monday, Berry declared, "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 arrive at the home on Cleveland's west side before the man returned.

"I've been kidnapped, and I've been missing for 10 years," she told the dispatcher. "And I'm here. I'm free now."

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. DeJesus went missing at age 14 on her way home from school about a year later. They were found just a few miles from where they had gone missing.

Police said Knight went missing in 2002 and is 32 now. They didn't provide current ages for Berry or DeJesus.

Ramsey, the neighbor, said he'd barbecued with the home's owner and never suspected anything was amiss.

"There was nothing exciting about him -- well, until today," he said.

Cleveland Deputy Chief Ed Tomba confirmed that none of the neighbors were under suspicion.

In January 2004, shortly after the women were kidnapped, police did arrive at Ariel Castro's home and attempt to contact him after a complaint was filed regarding his job as a bus driver, Tomba said. Castro was not home at the time, so police left.

Apparently Castro had left a child on his bus when he returned to the depot, but after an "extensive" interview which was not conducted at his home, police determined it was an accident. According to officials, that was the only time law enforcement approached the home, which never had any violations or complaints until now.

The women's loved ones said they hadn't given up hope of seeing them again.

A childhood friend of DeJesus, Kayla Rogers, said she couldn't wait to hug her.

"I've been praying, never forgot about her, ever," Rogers told The Plain Dealer newspaper.

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.

Berry's mother, Louwana Miller, who had been hospitalized 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.

Councilwoman Dona Brady said she had spent many hours with Miller, who never gave up hope that her daughter was alive.

"She literally died of a broken heart," Brady said.

Mayor Frank Jackson expressed gratitude that the three women were found alive. He said there are many unanswered questions in the ongoing investigation.

At Metro Health Medical Center, Dr. Gerald Maloney wouldn't discuss the women's conditions in detail but said they were being evaluated by appropriate specialists.

"This is really good, because this isn't the ending we usually hear in these stories," he said. "So, we're very happy."

In January, a prison inmate was sentenced to 4-1/2 years after admitting he provided a false burial tip in the disappearance of Berry. 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.

Two men arrested for questioning in DeJesus' 2004 disappearance were released from the city jail in 2006 after officers didn't 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 at the time.


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