By Rexford Okwesili
With one frantic 911 call on Monday evening, three women missing for years were found in a Cleveland house where they had been held against their will by three brothers, police in Ohio said.
“I’ve been kidnapped,” Berry, who disappeared a decade ago, told the dispatcher. “I’ve been missing for 10 years and I’m out here. I’m free now.”
Authorities heaped praise on Berry, now 27 and the mother of a 6-year-old.
“The real hero here is Amanda,” said Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba.
Berry and two other women, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, went missing between 2000 and 2004 in separate incidents. The women were all between the ages of 14 and 20 when they vanished.
Neighbors and relatives celebrated the happy ending, but for some, the years had taken their toll. Berry’s mother died in 2006, not knowing whether her daughter was alive or dead.
Three suspects are under arrest — former school-bus driver Ariel Castro, 52, and his brothers Pedro, 54, and O’Neal, 50, Cleveland police said. A search warrant related to the arrest was executed by police at an address on Seymour Avenue in Cleveland, police said.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said at a Tuesday press conference that there are many unanswered questions: “Why were they taken, how they were taken and how they remained undetected in the city of Cleveland for all this time?”
The three women were taken to nearby Metro Health Medical hospital, along with Berry’s child, officials said.
All three women were released from the hospital Tuesday morning, the hospital said in a statement, after reporting earlier in the morning that they had been in “fair condition.”
“The nightmare is over,” said Cleveland FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen Anthony. “These three young ladies have provided us with the ultimate definition of survival and perseverance. The healing can now begin.”
The three disappearances had stumped police in Cleveland and shaken the community for years. Berry was reported missing on April 21, 2003 after she phoned her sister to say she was getting a ride home from her job at a fast food restaurant. About one year after that, 14-year-old DeJesus vanished while walking home from school.
Police said their records showed two visits to the home in recent years. In 2000, they responded to a call about a fight from Ariel Castro. In 2004, after Castro was accused of leaving a child on a bus, authorities went to the house but no one was home.
Authorities said they never stopped looking for the missing women, running down tips and even digging up two backyards. The break came when Berry summoned the courage to escape.
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