WASHINGTON, May 7, 2013 – The Cleveland Miracle, the recovery of Amanda Berry, Gin DeJesus and Michelle Knight, three women who seemingly vanished into thin air more than a decade ago, unfolds.
As new questions arise, others are answered.
Information coming in credits Amanda Berry and a good Samaritan, Charles Ramsey, with the women’s escape. How easy it would have been for Ramsey to ignore the woman screaming for help from the window of the house on Seymour Avenue.
With Ramsey’s help, Berry was able to escape the house, running across the street after squeezing out from the bottom screened panel of the front door, which was blocked. Ramsey and another neighbor, identified as Anna Tejeda, aided Berry as she flew breathlessly across the street to call police.
The woman’s voice on the tapes is frantic and she is 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.”
Three men, Ariel Castro, 52; Pedro J. Castro, 54; and Onil (aka Neil) Castor, 50; are all now in custody.
Ramsey told WEWS-TV he heard screaming Monday and saw Berry, whom he didn’t recognize, thinking it odd that a “white woman” was yelling for help in “this neighborhood.”
He said she was trying desperately to get outside, pleading for help.
“I heard screaming,” he said. “I’m eating my McDonald’s. I come outside. I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of a house.”
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, allowing her escape from ten years of imprisonment, leading to the discovery and release of her fellow captives, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight.
On broadcasts we hear Tejeda, speaking Spanish, translated by a young girl identified as her niece. 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 the 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 come to the home on Cleveland’s west side before the man returned.
“I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years,” she again told the dispatcher. “And I’m here. I’m free now.”
Police said Knight disappeared in 2002 at age 20. She is now 32. 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. About a year later, DeJesus vanished at age 14 on her way home from school.
Berry is now 27, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
Authorities didn’t provide a current age for DeJesus. The women’s prision is just a few miles from where they had vanished. Police say all three suspects, apparently brothers, are all legal residents. Ariel Castro was issued a Social Security number in Ohio between 1974 and 1975.
According to an uncle of the suspects, Julio Castro, Ariel Castro and the DeJesus family lived nearby, growing up in the same Cleveland neighborhood. The uncle has said, “I never want to see them (his nephews) again.”
Castro used to work as a bus driver for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. He was fired in November 2012 for making an illegal U-turn with children on the bus.
Castro lived in the two-story house located on Seymour Avenue since 1992. The home is in foreclosure for three years of unpaid real estate taxes. The property was purchased and financed by Edwin Castro.
Castro was arrested for domestic violence in 1993, but a grand jury declined to indict him. Castro was also arrested in December 1993 for disorderly conduct. He pleaded guilty to the charge. Castro was stopped six times by Cleveland Police between 1995 and 2008 for traffic violations.
Local police and the FBI have maintained active investigations since the disappearances, following many leads.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper reports the son of suspect Ariel Castro, also named Ariel Castro but known as Anthony, wrote an article in June 2004 about the disappearances for Cleveland West Side neighborhood community news website the Cleveland Plain Press when he was a journalism student at Bowling Green State University. He even interviewed the mother of Gina DeJesus for the piece. The father-son relationship and authorship of the article was confirmed by CNN in a phone interview with Anthony Castro.
In January 2003, a year after Knight had disappeared and before Berry went missing, Children and Family Services authorities went to the Sycamore Street home. At a news conference Mayor Frank Jackson said authorities “knocked on the door but were unsuccessful in connection with making any contact with anyone inside that home,” he said.
Cleveland Deputy police chief Tomba said that Castro was “interviewed extensively” during that investigation but no-criminal intent was found regarding the incidence.
Onil’s criminal records include a November 2001 guilty charge for explosives prohibitions and charges for drug abuse (November 1999) and disorderly conduct/intoxication.
Investigators are now collecting logistical information. This crime scene is ten years in the making, and while everyone seems to be centered on the home located on Sycamore, one has to guess that the brother’s homes will also become a part of the investigation.
Neighbors understandably lament that they “never saw anything” unable to understand how this horrible secret was kept. Ramsey has remarked words to the effect of “I knew the dude (Castro), I ate bbq with the dude, we ate ribs and listened to Salsa music.”
The child seen in some photos. reported to be with Berry, is her six-year-old daughter. The identity of the child’s father is not known. No other children have been confirmed.
There is now time for healing. These women have both Jaycee Dugard and Elizabeth Smart, kidnapping victims recovered years after their disappearances, to look toward for guidance in healing.
Dugard released a statement Tuesday saying Berry, DeJesus and Knight “need the opportunity to heal and connect back into the world.
“This isn’t who they are. It is only what happened to them,” Dugard said. “The human spirit is incredibly resilient. More than ever this reaffirms we should never give up hope.”
But the larger question is why were these women, Jaycee, Elizabeth, Amanda, Gina and Michelle, abducted. What in our society made their captors feel that they had a right to take these women, abuse them sexually, and keep them from their friends and family?
What in our society gives these perpetrators the right to steal so much? So drastically?
These three young ladies, as well as Jaycee Dugard and Elizabeth Smart, have shown us what it means to survive. In time they will share the details of their ordeal and become witnesses against the Castro brothers.
Family and law enforcement never gave up hope these women would be recovered and it seems neither did they.(Wikipedia, CNN and Associated Press contributed to this article)
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