Authorities say three brothers have been arrested after three women who vanished about a decade ago in separate cases were found alive Monday in a residential area just south of downtown Cleveland, just a few miles from where they disappeared.
Police said one of the brothers, a 52-year-old, lived at the home, and the others, ages 50 and 54, lived elsewhere. Authorities released no names and gave no details about them or what charges they might face. Earlier, authorities described one of the suspects as a Hispanic male but said they planned to provide more information at a news conference Tuesday.
Cheering crowds gathered Monday night on the street near the home where police said Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were found earlier in the day. Police said a 6-year-old also was found in the home, but the child’s identity or relationship to anyone in the home wasn’t revealed.
Police didn’t immediately provide any details of how the women were found but said they appeared to be in good health and had been taken to a hospital for evaluation, where they would be reunited with their relatives.
Cleveland’s police chief says he thinks three women were tied up in the house where they were found and had been there since they disappeared.
One neighbor, Charles Ramsey, told Fox 8 he heard screaming, found Berry at the door of the house and helped her call police.
“Help me, I’m Amanda Berry. … I’ve been kidnapped and I’ve been missing for 10 years. And I’m here, I’m free now,” Berry can be heard saying on the frantic 911 call,made at 5:51 p.m. Monday.
She asks for police to respond “now, before he gets back” and then identifies her kidnapper as “Ariel Castro.”
Julio Castro, who runs a grocery store half a block from where the women were found, also said the homeowner arrested is his nephew, Ariel Castro, according to the Associated Press.
The uncle said Ariel Castro had worked as a school bus driver. The Cleveland school district confirmed he was a former employee but wouldn’t release details.
Ramsey, the neighbor, said he’d barbecued with the home’s owner and never suspected something was amiss.
“There was nothing exciting about him — well, until today,” he said.
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 disappeared at age 14 on her way home from school about a year later. Police said Knight went missing in 2002 and is 32 now. They didn’t provide current ages for the other two women.
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.”
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.
At Metro Health Medical Center, Dr. Gerald Maloney declined to go into details about the women’s conditions. “We’re assessing their needs, and the appropriate specialists are evaluating them as well,” he said at a news conference, which concluded with a round of applause from a large gathering of area residents.
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, 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 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.
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.