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Amanda Berry's screams led to dramatic rescue in Cleveland, Ohio

May 7, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
It was Amanda Berry's desperate screams that caught a neighbor's attention and led to the dramatic rescue of Berry and two other women who had been missing for a decade.

Police say Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were tied up at the house in a residential area a few miles from where they disappeared and held there since they went missing between 2002 and 2004. There are still a lot of unanswered questions as to how the women were kidnapped and why.

Three suspects have been arrested: 52-year-old Ariel Castro, 54-year-old Pedro Castro and 50-year-old Onil Castro. Ariel Castro is the homeowner, and the three men are brothers.

Neighbor Charles Ramsey heard Berry's screams and helped kick in a door to help her and a 6-year-old, believed to be her daughter, escape.

"I'm eating my McDonald's, I come outside, I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of a house, so I open the door, and we can't get in that way because how the door is, it's so much that a body can't fit through, only your hand, so we kicked the bottom," Ramsey said.

Berry disappeared in 2003 one day shy of her 17th birthday after working her shift at Burger King. Her disappearance was highly publicized. Ramsey said he initially did not believe Berry was who she said she was because he thought she had died.

"I've been kidnapped and I've been missing for 10 years. And I'm here, I'm free now," Berry told dispatchers. "Are they on their way right now? I need them now. I need them now before he gets back."

DeJesus was kidnapped a year later while she was walking home in the same area at only 14 years old. Knight disappeared in 2002 at the age of 21.

"You're not going to be able to give the years back to the girls," said Knight's grandmother, Deborah Knight. "The only thing they can do now is move forward and their families are going to have to help them to move forward.

Residents in the neighborhood had no idea the women were living on their street. Ramsey said his neighbor never raised his suspicions.

"I barbecued with this dude. We eat ribs and what not and listen to salsa music," said Ramsey. "Not a clue that that girl was in that house or anybody else was there against their will."

Other neighbors say they had contacted police in the past about strange activity in the house, but they claim detectives never fully investigated. They say they sometimes heard pounding on the home's doors and noticed plastic bags over the windows.

One neighbor says she had noticed a little girl looking out the attic window.

"It's just strange to see a little girl up there, and I started questioning people," said neighbor Isie Cintron. "I said, 'He's got a daughter.' They said, 'No, he doesn't even have a wife.'"

That girl is believed to be Berry's daughter, 6-year-old Jocelyn, who was born in captivity. Berry's father, Johnny, said he knew he'd see his daughter alive one day.

"Keep hope, keep hope. Don't give up until you know, because I never gave up," said Johnny Berry.

While the victims have been released from the hospital and reunited with their families, Berry's mother died in 2006 before ever learning the truth about her daughter. Family members say her mother died of a broken heart.

DeJesus' cousin, Sylvia Colon, said her cousin's mother never gave up hope over the years.

"Nancy was always very stoic, is very stoic, very strong woman, and she has always said that she just could feel, it's only something a mom could feel, but she has always believed Gina was alive and well. She always believed that," said Colon.

Elizabeth Smart, who was 14 when she disappeared for nine months before being rescued, said she was overjoyed to hear about the rescue in an interview on "Good Morning America." Her words of advice to the women were to "not allow this man to ruin another second of their lives."

"He's stolen so much from them already. They deserve to be happy, and I would tell them, I hope that they realize there is so much ahead of them that they don't need to hold on to the past," Smart said.

Cleveland officials on Tuesday said they had no records of anyone calling about criminal activity the house. Over the past 15 years, police went to the house twice: In 2000, Ariel Castro reported a fight in the street, but no arrests were made, officials said. Then in 2004, officers went to the home after child welfare officials told them that Ariel Castro, a school bus driver, apparently left a child unattended on a bus. No one answered the door, and police later determined there was no criminal intent.

Ariel Castro was fired in October 2012 after a fourth incident that showed a lack of judgement, including making an illegal U-turn in rush hour with students on the bus and using the bus for grocery shopping.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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