Authorities tried earlier visit to house where Cleveland women found

Combination photo created from May 7, 2013 booking photos provided by the Cleveland Police Department show brothers Ariel (L-R), Onil and Pedro Castro. The brothers were arrested in connection with the abduction of three Cleveland women found alive after vanishing in their own neighborhood for about a decade.  Credit: Reuters
Combination photo created from May 7, 2013 booking photos provided by the Cleveland Police Department show brothers Ariel (L-R), Onil and Pedro Castro. The brothers were arrested in connection with the abduction of three Cleveland women found alive after vanishing in their own neighborhood for about a decade.
Credit: Reuters

Three Cleveland women, found alive after vanishing for about a decade in their own neighborhood, were freed from a house that authorities tried to visit several years ago, police said on Tuesday.

Three brothers, one of them a school bus driver who owns the house in Cleveland, Ohio where three women and a child were found on Monday, are under arrest, police said at a news conference.

Police identified them as Ariel Castro, 52, Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50.

Amid jubilation over the discovery, authorities and residents quickly questioned whether the women had been held inside the house for years without anyone noticing. All three young women vanished separately – in 2002, 2003 and 2004 – within a few blocks of the house where they were found.

Authorities attempted to visit the home in 2004 on a matter unrelated to the disappearances but were unable to enter, police said.

Monday evening’s rescue, described as a “miracle” by one family member, unfolded with a frantic emergency call from a woman who told a 911 operator she was Amanda Berry, who disappeared in April 2003 and was the subject of years of searches.

She had escaped from the modest, two-story house in the low-income neighborhood on Cleveland’s West Side with the help of a neighbor who told police he heard screaming and helped her kick out a locked screen door.

Police arrived to find Berry, now 27, along with Gina DeJesus, 23, who vanished in 2004, and Michelle Knight, now 32, who went missing in 2002, police said. They also found a 6-year-old girl who police said was Berry’s daughter. She would have been conceived and born during Berry’s captivity.

SEARCHES OVER THE YEARS

The disappearances of Berry and DeJesus were well known in Cleveland, although Knight’s disappearance had attracted less attention, police said. Just last month a vigil was held to mark the ninth anniversary of DeJesus’ disappearance.

Anthony Quiros, 24, who grew up next door to the house where the women were found, said bus driver Ariel Castro had been an onlooker as police dug up a Cleveland lot looking for remains in the case on a tip that proved false.

“He also came to a vigil and acted as if nothing was wrong,” said Quiros. He said he saw Castro comforting DeJesus’s mother about a year ago.

Born in Puerto Rico, Castro played bass in Latin music bands in the area. Neighbors said he sometimes parked his school bus in front of the house at lunchtime and would take multiple bags of fast food inside.

They said he was divorced more than a decade ago and his ex-wife had since died.

On a Facebook page believed to belong to Castro, he said last month that he had just become a grandfather for a fifth time. Court records show Ariel Castro was arrested in 1993 on a domestic violence charge that was subsequently dismissed. I

Tito DeJesus, who said he used to play Latin music with Castro, said on CNN he had been in the house two years ago and saw nothing suspicious. He said the living room was filled with bass guitars.

Berry had last been seen leaving her job at a fast-food restaurant the day before her 17th birthday in April 2003, and Gina DeJesus was last seen walking home from school.

Authorities said they were trying to determine if there had been any clues they were in the house, located in a neighborhood where houses are typically separated only by a driveway.

Two houses to one side of the Castro house were boarded up on Tuesday.

Children and Family Services authorities went to the house in January 2004, more than a year after Knight disappeared and eight months after Berry went missing, because Ariel Castro had left a child on a school bus, Mayor Frank Jackson said at the news conference.

They “knocked on the door but were unsuccessful in connection with making any contact with anyone inside that home,” he said.

Police said Castro had been interviewed extensively during that investigation and no criminal intent was found regarding the child left on the bus.

“We have no indication that any of the neighbors, bystanders, witnesses or anyone else has ever called regarding any information, regarding activity that occurred at that house on Seymour Avenue,” the mayor said.

After their rescue, the three women were taken to a nearby hospital, where they were reunited with family and friends, and released on Tuesday.

“If you don’t believe in miracles, I suggest you think again,” DeJesus’ aunt Sandra Ruiz said to reporters on Tuesday in Cleveland. Her comments were televised by local station WJW.

“This is a miracle,” Ruiz said. But she added: “Watch who your neighbor is because you never know.”

The case is not the first time Cleveland has witnessed a horrific story close to home that raised questions about the thoroughness of police investigations.

In 2009, police discovered a home in Cleveland where Anthony Sowell had imprisoned and killed 11 women. Family members of some victims filed suit against the city, complaining about the police’s handling of the case.

Sowell was convicted in 2011 and is on death row.

A man who helped to look for DeJesus, Pastor Angel Arroyo, said he and her family members had handed out flyers years ago in the neighborhood where she was found.

“We didn’t search hard enough. She was right under our nose the whole time,” Arroyo said.

FBI and other law enforcement officials were searching the house as well as other properties, said police, who did not elaborate.

During her 911 call, Berry can be heard giving the dispatcher Ariel Castro’s name and urging police to come quickly. She indicated that she knew her disappearance had been widely reported in the media.

“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 in a recording of the call released by police.

The discovery of the three women was reminiscent of the case of Jaycee Dugard, who was snatched from her northern California home at age 11 by a convicted sex offender, Phillip Garrido, and kept in captivity for 18 years before being rescued in 2009.

During that time she was repeatedly raped by her abductor and gave birth to two girls fathered by him.

Dugard released a statement on Tuesday. “As simple as it sounds, these women need the opportunity to have the privacy to heal and reconnect.”

“I know individuals are strong in spirit and can be resilient in crisis. I wish them the best in their journey,” she said.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Girl, 10, dies after being pulled from water…

A 10-year-old girl died after being pulled from the waters off Coney Island Beach in Brooklyn on Tuesday night, police said.

News

NY judge throws out lawsuit by Empire State…

A New York state judge has thrown out a lawsuit in which longtime investors in the Empire State Building claimed they were shortchanged out of hundreds of millions of dollars…

Local

Mysterious white flags appear over Brooklyn Bridge

Two white flags mysteriously appeared over the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday in place of the American flags that are a traditional fixture.

National

Judge sets January start for murder trial of…

By Elizabeth BarberBOSTON (Reuters) - Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez will be tried in January for the murder of semi-professional football player Odin…

Television

'Pretty Little Liars' recap: Season 5, Episode 7,…

Drunk girls and ghost brownies: here’s your weekly ‘Pretty Little Liars’ recap by way of Q&A. Q: do they really not check for feet under…

Arts

Don't miss 'Charles James: Beyond Fashion' at the…

Have you been meaning to see "Charles James: Beyond Fashion"? There are only two weeks left to get to the Met and catch this amazing American fashion designer's collection.

Television

Zac Posen talks 'Project Runway' and what it…

We talked to Zac Posen, judge and designer extraordinaire, about the new season of "Project Runway" and what keeps him coming back after three seasons.

Television

'Face Off' contestant David 'DOC' O'Connell sounds off…

David "DOC" O'Connell tells us about getting cast on Season 7 of Syfy's "Face Off," premiering tonight at 9.

NFL

David Tyree hiring has gay rights advocates angry

Former Giants Super Bowl hero David Tyree will re-join the franchise as its new director of player development.

NFL

Ben McAdoo's new offense has Giants excited to…

Even Tom Coughlin feels he has a lot to learn about offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s new offense, which makes the veteran coach very excited.

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead…

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead pack

NFL

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will…

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will win Super Bowl?

Tech

Learn Braille with these gloves

U.S. scientists have designed high-tech gloves to help users understand Braille in a matter of minutes.

Home

5 New Ikea products that will change your…

We round-up the latest must-have products.

Food

Recipe: Wolfgang Puck's Buttermilk French Toast

We recently spent some time chatting with restauranteur/celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck at his Wolfgang Puck American Grille in the Borgata in Atlantic City. Puck wanted…

Style

Go retro with your sneakers

The best of wacky new sneakers.