Women missing for decade found in US

Last updated 16:26 07/05/2013
ABC News

Neighbour who helped rescue missing women in the US speaks about the moment he discovered them.

Neighbour discovers "girl going nuts"

Amanda Berry's frantic 911 call

Amanda Berry
Reuters Zoom
Gina DeJesus arrives at her home in Cleveland, almost 10 years after she vanished aged 14.
Amanda Berry
MISSING: Amanda Berry went missing when she was 16 years old.
Gina DeJesus
MISSING: Gina DeJesus went missing in 2004 on her way home from school.

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Three US women who disappeared about a decade ago have been found alive at a Cleveland house near where they were last seen and three people have been arrested over the case.

The women - identified as Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight - were found with a child.

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 to be reunited with relatives and to be evaluated. They said a 6-year-old also was found in the home.

A neighbour in the community said he heard screams and rushed to the house where he found one of the women, Amanda Berry. He lent her his cell phone to 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 is heard frantically telling a 911 emergency operator in a recording of the call, released by police and posted on the website of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

During the call, she gave the name of her alleged abductor and said he was "out of the house." She urged police to come quickly and indicated that she knew her disappearance had been widely reported in the media.

The neighbour, Charles Ramsey, said in an interview broadcast by CNN that when he arrived Berry appeared desperate to get through the door, which did not open properly.

"I see this girl going nuts trying to get outside," he said, adding that he was astonished when she identified herself.

"Then I realised I'm calling 911 for Amanda Berry. I thought that girl was dead," he said. He said Berry had emerged from the house "with a little girl."

All three women were taken to a local hospital, MetroHealth Medical Center, where Dr Gerald Maloney told reporters they were all "safe" and "appear to be in fair condition."

"This isn't the ending we usually have to these stories, so we're very happy. We're very happy for them," Maloney 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 went missing at age 14 on her way home from school about a year later.

Police said Knight went missing in 2002 and was now 32.

A 52-year-old man was among those arrested. Police released no names and gave no details about the others arrested or what charges they might face.

CROWDS CHEER

Crowds on the street where the women were found cheered as police cars drove into the cordoned-off area around the house.

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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.

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.

Berry was last seen leaving her job at a fast-food restaurant to go home on the day before her 17th birthday.

On the 10th anniversary of her disappearance, family members and activists held a vigil for Berry, and authorities recently reminded the public of a US$25,000 reward for information about what had become of her, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

City Councilwoman Dona Brady, a friend of the family, told Reuters that Berry's grief-stricken mother had died at age 47, essentially from a broken heart.

Police identified the suspect as Ariel Castro, 52, a bus driver for Cleveland public schools.

His uncle, Caesar Castro, who owns a grocery store on the same street, said his nephew owned the house where the women were found. He added that members of his family and the family of DeJesus "grew up together."

"Everyone is shocked," said the elder Castro. He said he had known his nephew to be "a good guy" and a musician who played the bass.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said, "I am thankful that Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight have been found alive."

"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," he added.

FALSE HOPE

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.

- Agencies

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