Story Summary

Ohio teens found after missing 10 years

Three long-missing women — Amanda Berry, 27; Georgina “Gina” DeJesus, 23; and Michelle Knight, 32 — and a 6-year-old daughter apparently born to Berry in captivity were found alive in Cleveland, Ohio, police said. The women are believed to have been abducted years ago — in 2002, 2003 and 2004 — and held captive at a man’s home, according to police.

Three suspects, all brothers, including the home’s main resident, Ariel Castro, 52, were arrested.

Castro was charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape. His brothers were not charged in the case.

 

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Brian Cummins, Cleveland City Council member joins WGN Morning News

One of three women held captive in a Cleveland home said she was pregnant at least five times but was starved and punched until she eventually miscarried, according to an initial incident report obtained by CNN.

In conversations with police immediately after she was freed, Michelle Knight said that when Ariel Castro found out she was pregnant, “Ariel would make her abort the baby,” the document states.

As Castro prepares to make his first court appearance Thursday on charges of kidnapping and rape, the accusations of what he did to the three young women trapped in his home for a decade get more and more abhorrent.

Knight “stated that he starved her for at least 2 weeks, then he repeatedly punched her in the stomach until she miscarried,” the initial police report states.

But when another captive was pregnant, the situation was different.

When Amanda Berry went into labor, Castro ordered Knight to deliver the child, according to a police source familiar with the investigation.

The baby was delivered in a plastic tub or pool in order to contain the afterbirth and amniotic fluid.

But soon after Berry’s baby was born, panic ensued. The child stopped breathing, and everyone started screaming, the source said, citing accounts by the young women.

Knight said Castro threatened to kill her if the baby did not survive, the initial police report states.

The latest accounts stunned authorities and the public.

“What’s most incredible here is that this girl who knows nothing about childbirth was able to deliver a baby that is now a healthy 6-year-old,” the source said.

A decade-long nightmare

Berry, Knight and Georgina “Gina” DeJesus were held captive in a 1,400-square-foot home in one of Cleveland’s oldest neighborhoods. They went outside only twice — and just “briefly” at that, Cleveland public safety director Martin Flask said.

According to the initial incident report, all three said that Castro chained them up in the basement, but later freed them from the chains and allowed them to live upstairs on the second floor.

More often, the three would be in different rooms, though they interacted occasionally and came to “rely on each other for survival,” said a law enforcement source with direct knowledge of the investigation.

One thing they could count on was that their alleged captor would never let them out.

Castro would often test the young women by pretending to leave, the law enforcement source said. Then he’d suddenly return; if there were indications any of the women had moved, they’d be disciplined.

Years went by.

In that time, the women saw their parents on television at vigils held for them, according to the law enforcement source. They got emotional, knowing their loved ones were looking for them.

And in time, Knight and DeJesus “succumbed” to “their reality,” the law enforcement source said.

But “something must have clicked” for Berry on Monday evening, and the 27-year-old staged a daring escape, Cleveland Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba said.

With the help of Castro’s neighbors Charles Ramsey and Angel Cordero, Berry freed herself, her 6-year-old daughter and the two other women.

The three women found in Castro’s home are back with family.

“I knew my daughter was out there alive,” said Felix DeJesus, Gina’s father, moments after she arrived at a family home Wednesday. “I knew she needed me, and I never gave up.”

Castro, meanwhile, is behind bars. He’ll be arraigned Thursday morning on four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape, said Victor Perez, chief assistant prosecutor for the city of Cleveland.

How the ordeal started

Knight was 21 on August 22, 2002, when Castro lured her into his vehicle along Cleveland’s Lorain Avenue, according to charging documents. Castro took her back to his home on Seymour Avenue, about three miles away, and didn’t let her go.

Knight was sexually assaulted multiple times, the documents state. Soon, others joined her

Berry experienced a similar nightmare on April 21, 2003 — the eve of her 17th birthday. While walking home from her job at Burger King that night, Castro told her his son also worked at Burger King and offered her a ride home, the initial police report states.

Almost exactly a year later, they were joined by DeJesus — then 14 years old.

They remained in that hell until Monday evening, when Berry screamed for help. Hearing her cries, Ramsey and Cordero kicked in a door to help her escape.

According to Cordero, Berry’s 6-year-old daughter ran out of the house too, wearing only a diaper and a sullied shirt. Police are conducting a DNA test to determine the child’s paternity.

“Help me, I am Amanda Berry,” the victim begged a 911 operator from Ramsey’s house. “I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years. And I’m here, I’m free now.”

Knight and DeJesus didn’t run out of the house with Berry, even though they could have, said the law enforcement source with direct knowledge of the case. The source described the Knight and DeJesus as brainwashed and fearful.

He ‘kept everybody at a distance’

So how did this all happen in an urban neighborhood? Did Castro — a former school bus driver described by a bandmate as an upbeat and outgoing musician — keep such a secret not only from his neighbors, but also his family, as police allege?

Soon after the three women were found, Castro and two brothers who were with him were taken into custody.

Over the next two days, authorities “found no facts to link” Onil and Pedro Castro to the kidnappings, though both brothers will appear in Cleveland Municipal Court on Thursday for outstanding warrants on unrelated misdemeanor cases.

“Ariel kept everybody at a distance,” said Tomba, the deputy police chief.

Castro has been talking to investigators since Tuesday, as have the three young women police say he kidnapped and raped.

Law enforcement personnel have been sifting through Castro’s Seymour Avenue home — which Tomba said was in “disarray” — and removed more than 200 items that they hope will let them piece together what happened.

Additionally, FBI agents searched a boarded-up home two doors down after obtaining information over the past few days tying that building to the case, the deputy police chief said.

Did anyone drop the ball?

As they investigate, authorities are facing scrutiny over whether the nightmare could have been prevented or stopped much earlier.

Some neighbors said they had contacted police about suspicious activity on Castro’s property, such as reports of screaming and naked women in his backyard. But authorities say they never got any such calls.

In fact, police say they had been to Castro’s house only twice — once after he called about a fight on his street, and once to investigate an incident in which he was accused of leaving a child alone on a bus. No one answered at the home, and investigators later interviewed him elsewhere, police said.

According to court documents from 2005, Castro’s former common-law wife accused him of repeatedly abusing her, including breaking her nose twice, breaking two ribs, dislocating her shoulder twice and knocking out a tooth. A judge granted a protection order but lifted it three months later.

Tomba said he doesn’t think authorities dropped the ball.

“I’m just very, very confident (that) law enforcement officers … checked every single lead, and if there was one bit of evidence, (they would have) followed it up very, very aggressively,” he said.

“In hindsight, we may find out that maybe we did, but that’s going to be in hindsight.”

CNN’s Pamela Brown reported from Cleveland, and CNN’s Holly Yan and Matt Smith reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Greg Botelho, Rose Arce, Chandler Friedman, Poppy Harlow, Brian Todd, Tory Dunnan, Martin Savidge and Laura Ly contributed to this report.

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For the better part of a decade, there was no escape.

The three women spent their days and nights captive at 2207 Seymour Avenue, a 1,400-square-foot home in one of Cleveland’s oldest neighborhoods. They went outside only twice in that span — just “briefly” at that — Cleveland public safety director Martin Flask said.

More often, the three would be in different rooms, though they interacted occasionally and came to “rely on each other for survival,” said a law enforcement source with firsthand knowledge of the investigation.

One thing they could count on was that their alleged captor would never let them out.

Ariel Castro would often test Michelle Knight, Georgina “Gina” DeJesus and Amanda Berry, the young women he’d allegedly abducted, by pretending to leave, said the law enforcement source. He’d return suddenly: If there were indications any of the women had moved, they’d be disciplined.

Years went by. In that time, the women saw their parents on television at vigils held for them, according to the law enforcement source. They got emotional, knowing their loved ones were looking for them.

And in time, Knight and DeJesus “succumbed” to “their reality,” the law enforcement source said.

ArielCastroBut “something must have clicked” for Amanda Berry on Monday evening, said Cleveland’s deputy police chief Ed Tomba. She staged a daring escape, and with the help of Castro’s neighbors Charles Ramsey and Angel Cordero, freed herself, her 6-year-old daughter, Knight and DeJesus.

On Wednesday night, the man who allegedly held them against their will for so many years, Ariel Castro, was behind bars.

He’ll be arraigned Thursday morning on four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape tied to the case, said Victor Perez, chief assistant prosecutor for the city of Cleveland.

The women found in his home, meanwhile, are back with family. The same relatives who cried and struggled but, for the most part, never gave up hope.

“I knew my daughter was out there alive,” said Felix DeJesus, Gina’s father, moments after she arrived Wednesday afternoon at a family home in Cleveland. “I knew she needed me, and I never gave up.”

Lured into a vehicle, then trapped in a home

Knight was 21 on August 22, 2002, when Castro lured her into his vehicle along Cleveland’s Lorain Avenue, according to charging documents. Castro took her back to his home on Seymour Avenue, about three miles away, and didn’t let her go.

In that time, Knight was sexually assaulted repeatedly, the documents state. But soon, she wasn’t alone.

The next year — on April 21, 2003, the eve of her 17th birthday — Berry experienced the same nightmare scenario. While walking home from her job at Burger King that night, she too took a ride from Castro on Lorain Avenue.

Almost exactly a year later, they were joined by DeJesus, then all of 14 years old.

They remained in that hell until Monday evening, when Berry screamed for help. Hearing her cries, Ramsey and Cordero kicked in a door to help her escape.

According to Cordero, Berry’s 6-year-old daughter ran out of the house too, wearing only a diaper and a sullied shirt. Police are conducting a DNA test to determine the child’s paternity.

“Help me, I am Amanda Berry,” Berry begged a 911 operator from Ramsey’s house. “I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years. And I’m here, I’m free now.”

Cleveland police Chief Michael McGrath told NBC’s “Today” show that the women were bound and that there were “chains and ropes in the home.”

There were no apparent constraints Monday, the law enforcement source with firsthand knowledge of the investigation said. Yet Knight and DeJesus didn’t run out of the house with Berry although they could have, the source said, describing them as brainwashed and fearful.

‘Ariel kept everybody at a distance’

So how did this all happen in an urban neighborhood? Did Ariel Castro, a former school bus driver and upbeat and “outgoing” musician, according to one bandmate, keep such a secret from not only his neighbors but his family, as police allege?

Soon after the three women were found, Castro and two of his brothers who were with him were taken into custody.

Over the next two days, authorities officials “found no facts to link” Onil and Pedro Castro to the kidnappings — though both brothers will appear in Cleveland Municipal Court on Thursday related to outstanding warrants on misdemeanor cases on other matters.

“Ariel kept everybody at a distance,” Tomba said of the suspect, explaining why even his brothers and other family members (Castro talked on Facebook about having five grandchildren) apparently were in the dark.

Castro has been talking to investigators since Tuesday, as have the three young women police say he kidnapped and raped.

After those conversations, Tomba said he doesn’t believe there are other victims — including Ashley Summers, who was 14 when she went missing in the same part of Cleveland in 2007 — or anyone other than Castro involved.

And since Monday, law enforcement personnel have combed through Castro’s Seymour Avenue home — which Tomba said was in “disarray” when officers first went in — and removed more than 200 items that they hope will let them piece together what happened.

Additionally, FBI agents searched a boarded-up home two doors down after obtaining information over the past few days tying that building to the case, the deputy police chief explained.

Second-guessing if more could have been done

As they investigate, authorities are facing second-guessing as to whether any of this could have been prevented. Some comes from neighbors who say they contacted police about suspicious activity on Castro’s property — like reports of screaming and naked women in his backyard — though authorities say they never got any such calls.

In fact, police say they had only been to Castro’s house twice, once after he called about a fight on his street and in 2004 to investigate an incident in which was accused of leaving a child alone on a bus. No one answered at the home, and investigators later interviewed him elsewhere, police said.

And according to court documents from 2005, Castro’s former common-law wife accused him of repeatedly abusing her, including breaking her nose twice, breaking two ribs, dislocating her shoulder twice and knocking out a tooth. A judge granted a protection order but lifted it three months later.

Tomba, for one, said he doesn’t think authorities dropped the ball.

“I’m just very, very confident (that) law enforcement officers … checked every single lead, and if there was one bit of evidence (they would have) followed it up very, very aggressively,” he said.

“In hindsight we may find out that maybe we did, but that’s going to be in hindsight.”

Relief, joy as victims reunite with family

For the first time in years, relatives of Berry, DeJesus and Knight — whom Perez described Wednesday as “safe and healthy” — don’t have only memories to fall back on. They can look forward, and move on with their lives.

Barbara Knight told “Today” that, as of Wednesday, she still hadn’t talked with her daughter Michelle. Michelle Knight, now 32, was then in a Cleveland hospital in a good condition.

“She’s probably angry at the world, because she thought she would never be found,” Barbara Knight said. “But thank God that somebody did.”

Asked what she would tell her daughter, her mother said, “I love you and I missed you all this time.”

Well-wishers welcomed Berry and her daughter on Wednesday to a family home in Cleveland that was decorated with balloons and stuffed animals.

“We are so happy to have Amanda and her daughter home,” said her sister, Beth Serrano.

A similar scene played out at a DeJesus family home, where relatives embraced their long-lost relative.

Sandra Ruiz said that her niece, DeJesus, is “ecstatic” to be back with her relatives. When the now 23-year-old arrived at the house, “she was happy, she looked at the house and she wanted a tour.”

“What more can she say — her face, her expression, her smile, (her) hugging says it all,” Ruiz said.
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Two of the three women rescued from a Cleveland home where they’d been held for about a decade or more returned home Wednesday while police readied charges against the men accused of keeping them captive.

Well-wishers from the neighborhood cheered as a gray van carrying Amanda Berry and the 6-year-old daughter she gave birth to during her captivity pulled up. The porch was decorated with balloons and stuffed animals and draped with a red banner that read, “Welcome home Amanda.”

“We are so happy to have Amanda and her daughter home,” her sister, Beth Serrano, told reporters. “I want to thank the public and media for their support and courage over the years.”

A similar scene played out at the home of Gina DeJesus a few hours later. Family members embraced as DeJesus, wearing a neon-green hooded sweatshirt, was escorted into the home she hadn’t seen since 2004.

DeJesus, Berry and a third woman, Michelle Knight, were rescued Monday evening from the Cleveland home of 52-year-old Ariel Castro, police said. Knight was in good condition in a Cleveland hospital Wednesday.

“There are not enough words to say or express the joy that we feel for the return of our family member Gina, and now Amanda Berry, the daughter, and Michelle Knight, who is our family also,” DeJesus’ aunt, Sandra Ruiz, told reporters.

Authorities expect to file charges Wednesday against Castro and his two brothers, Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50, a police spokeswoman said.

City officials said ropes and chains have been found inside the home. While Public Safety Director Martin Flask said investigators haven’t confirmed how the ropes and chains were used, police Chief Michael McGrath told NBC’s “Today” that they were used to restrain the missing women.

“We have confirmation that they were bound,” he told NBC.

Investigators began questioning the brothers Tuesday night, FBI Special Agent Vicki Anderson said Wednesday.

They were arrested Monday night after Berry, 27, staged a daring escape with the aid of neighbors.

The three women disappeared from the same Cleveland street — Lorain Avenue — between 2002 and 2004. Police say they were held just three miles from where they disappeared.

They escaped after Berry broke out the bottom of a screen door and called for help Monday evening. Neighbors Charles Ramsey and Angel Cordero say they responded to her cries and helped kick in the door to help her escape.

“I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years,” Berry said in a frantic 911 call. “And I’m here. I’m free now.”

In a telephone call recorded Tuesday, by CNN affiliate WJHL, Berry sounded upbeat — telling her grandmother Fern Gentry that she felt “fine” and that the 6-year-old girl also rescued Monday from the Cleveland home is indeed her own.

“I love you honey, thank God,” Berry’s tearful grandmother Fern Gentry could be heard telling her granddaughter. “I’ve thought about you all this time. I never forgot about you.”

Knight remained at Metro Health Hospital Wednesday, spokeswoman Tina Shaerban-Arundel said. She declined to say what Knight was being treated for, but said she was in good condition.

The hospital had said Tuesday that all three women had been sent home after evaluations. Shaerban-Arundel said the hospital stood by that statement, but she did not elaborate.

News of her discovery came as a shock to brother Freddie Knight, who didn’t know she was missing until he saw the story on TV. He said the family thought Knight might be with the brother of a brother-in-law, but had no phone number to contact him.

“I was freaking happy as hell, because I didn’t know my sister was kidnapped,” he said. “My mom never tells me anything.”

Knight said their mom, who now lives in Naples, Florida, kicked him out of the house when he was 14 and they remain estranged.

CNN not could immediately confirm the details of Knight’s account.

Knight said he met with his sister at the hospital and gave her a hug, saying the ordeal had left her traumatized.

“I hugged her because she wanted a hug,” he said. “My sister is going to move on, forget the past … , leave it behind, start anew.”

Her mother, Barbara Knight, told NBC Wednesday that she had not yet spoken to her daughter.

“She’s probably angry at the world because she thought she would never be found but thank God that somebody did,” she told NBC.

When asked what she would say to her daughter, she said, “I love you and I missed you all this time.”

The investigation

FBI evidence technicians spent a second day at the home Tuesday. An exhaustive search of the grounds turned up no evidence of human remains, Flask said.

While charges are likely Wednesday, investigators still have much work ahead of them, said Ciaccia.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Tuesday. “This investigation will take a very long time.”

McGrath told NBC’s “Today” Wednesday that investigators believed the women were allowed out of the house only rarely. He didn’t know how often they were bound.

“We’ll have a better feel for that question once the interviews with the victims (are) completed later today,” he told NBC.

Some neighbors of Ariel Castro second-guessed themselves Tuesday, questioning why they hadn’t noticed signs earlier and if they could have prevented the horrors.

Neighbor Daniel Marti, for one, wonders why he didn’t question why Castro frequently brought bags of McDonald’s food into the house, or how Castro steered conversation away from his house.

“Now that I think of it, he didn’t want nobody back there,” said Marti, who said he has known Ariel Castro since junior high school and lived near him for some 22 years.

“This is a heartbreaking moment for us, because I’m always out there (and) I’ve heard nothing,” he said.

Relatives of the suspects were also troubled by the developments.

Maria Castro Montes, a cousin of the suspects, told CNN Wednesday if other family members had any inkling or suspicion of wrongdoing, they would have spoken up.

New details on homeowner

According to court documents, Ariel Castro’s former common-law wife accused him of repeatedly abusing her, including breaking her nose twice, breaking two ribs, dislocating her shoulder twice and knocking out a tooth.

Grimilda Figueroa also accused Castro of causing a blood clot on her brain, according to the 2005 documents. A judge granted a protection order, but lifted it three months later after repeated court delays and hearings Castro did not attend, according to the documents.

She died last year.

Figueroa’s father, Ishmael Figueroa, said Ariel Castro was abusive toward his late daughter. He said he and his wife once shared a house with Castro and Grimilda, and Castro would not let family members upstairs to the second floor where the couple lived. When they moved to the Seymour Avenue house, Castro would not let family members inside, Figueroa said.

Castro was a school bus driver until November, when he was fired, according to school district records released Tuesday night.

His firing came after he had left his bus unattended outside a school after his preschool routes had been canceled, without notifying his dispatcher or depot.

“He previously had been suspended for 60 days for leaving a child on a bus; 60 days for making an illegal U-turn in rush hour traffic with a bus load of students, and last school year for using the bus to do his grocery shopping,” the letter recommending his dismissal states.

Tito DeJesus, a sometimes bandmate of Castro’s, said he had been inside of Castro’s home once, about two years ago, to help deliver a washer and dryer he’d sold to the suspect and saw “a normal environment.”

DeJesus said he isn’t related to the rescued Gina DeJesus but had known the family for years.

“It didn’t seem to be a place where women were being held against their will,” he said. “Of course, mind you, I didn’t go throughout the entire house. I was just at the beginning of the house, in the living room, but it seemed normal.”

No previous suspicions

Cleveland officials insistently batted down claims by neighbors that they called police to report suspicious activity at the home.

“Media reports of multiple calls to the Cleveland Police reporting suspicious activity and the mistreatment of women at 2207 Seymour are false,” spokeswoman Maureen Harper said in an e-mailed statement.

Other officials said call records contained no evidence that neighbors ever called police to report unusual activity at the home.

On Tuesday, neighbor Israel Lugo and another neighbor, Nina Samoylicz, told CNN that they had called police in recent years to report separate incidents at the home.

Samoylicz said she and others saw a naked woman in the backyard of the home and called police.

Faliceonna Lopez, Samoylicz’ sister, told a slightly different version Tuesday night on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Live.” She said after seeing the woman, they told their mother, not police.

The mother, Annita Lugo, told Morgan that she didn’t call police, either, saying, “I definitely would have called then but it was hours later and I really — I really didn’t — you know, I was just stuck. I was dumbfounded, didn’t know how to take it, you know?”

Police had visited the home twice, authorities said Tuesday, once after Castro called about a fight in the street and again in 2004 to investigate the bus incident.

‘We’re hoping for a miracle’

Investigators had previously speculated that the disappearances of Berry, DeJesus and another girl, 14-year-old Ashley Summers, may have been connected. Summers’ family last saw her in July 2007, when she was 14.

“We did in fact believe there was an association between the Berry case and the DeJesus case as well as the Summers case,” said former FBI agent Jennifer Eakin. Eakin is now a case manager at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which in 2008 held a comprehensive review of the cases with the FBI and Cleveland police.

Now the Summers family is hoping that the Cleveland investigation will yield information about Ashley, her aunt, Debra Summers, said.

“We’re hoping for a miracle,” she said.

Anderson, the FBI spokeswoman, said investigators will question the three women found Monday in the hope that they know something about Summers’ disappearance.
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Ropes and chains have been found inside the Cleveland home where police say three women spent close to a decade in captivity, city officials said Wednesday.

While Public Safety Director Martin Flask said investigators haven’t confirmed how the ropes and chains were used, police Chief Michael McGrath told NBC’s “Today” that they were used to restrain the missing women.

“We have confirmation that they were bound,” he told NBC.

Authorities expect to file charges Wednesday against the homeowner and his two brothers, a police spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Police have until Wednesday evening to file charges against Ariel Castro, 52, who lived in the home where the women were found, and his brothers, Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50, police Detective Jennifer Ciaccia said Tuesday.

Investigators began questioning the brothers Tuesday night, FBI Special Agent Vicki Anderson said Wednesday.

They were arrested Monday night after one of the women, 27-year-old Amanda Berry, staged a daring escape with the aid of a neighbor.

amandaberry

Amanda Berry

In addition to Berry and a 6-year-old daughter apparently born to her during her captivity, police say Georgina “Gina” DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32, also were freed.

The three women disappeared from the same Cleveland street — Lorain Avenue — between 2002 and 2004. Police say they were held just three miles from where they disappeared.

They escaped after Berry broke out the bottom of a screen door and called for help Monday evening, startling neighbor Charles Ramsey, who helped kick in the door.

“I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years,” Berry said in a frantic 911 call. “And I’m here. I’m free now.”

Since they escaped, the women have been reuniting with family members they had not seen in nearly 10 years.

Berry was expected to return to her family home Wednesday. She will go inside and “freshen up” and then come outside and make a statement, Cleveland police Sgt. Thomas McCartney said.

“I love you honey, thank God,” Berry’s tearful grandmother Fern Gentry could be heard telling the young woman in a telephone call recorded by CNN affiliate WJHL. “… I’ve thought about you all this time. I never forgot about you.”

Berry sounded upbeat — telling Gentry that she felt “fine” and that the 6-year-old girl also rescued Monday from the Cleveland home is indeed her own.

At the home of Gina DeJesus, balloons dotted the front yard.

Her 32-year-old sister, Mayra DeJesus, told CNN’s Poppy Harlow Tuesday that Gina is in “good spirits” despite her ordeal.

Knight remained hospitalized Wednesday at Metro Health Hospital, a spokeswoman said.

Spokeswoman Tina Shaerban-Arundel declined to say what Knight was being treated for, but said she was in good condition.

News of her discovery came as a shock to brother Freddie Knight, who didn’t know she was missing until he saw the story on TV. He said the family thought Knight might be with the brother of a brother-in-law, but had no phone number to contact him.

“I was freaking happy as hell, because I didn’t know my sister was kidnapped,” he said. “My mom never tells me anything.”

Knight said their mom, who now lives in Naples, Florida, kicked him out of the house when he was 14 and they remain estranged.

CNN not could immediately confirm the details of Knight’s account.

Knight said he met with his sister at the hospital and gave her a hug, saying the ordeal had left her traumatized.

“I hugged her because she wanted a hug,” he said. “My sister is going to move on, forget the past … , leave it behind, start anew.”

Her mother, Barbara Knight, told NBC Wednesday that she had not yet spoken to her daughter.

“She’s probably angry at the world because she thought she would never be found but thank God that somebody did,” she told NBC.

When asked what she would say to her daughter, she said, “I love you and I missed you all this time.”

The investigation

FBI evidence technicians spent a second day at the home Tuesday. An exhaustive search of the grounds turned up no evidence of human remains, Flask said.

While charges are likely Wednesday, investigators still have much work ahead of them, said Ciaccia.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Tuesday. “This investigation will take a very long time.”

McGrath told NBC’s “Today” Wednesday that investigators believed the women were allowed out of the house only rarely. He didn’t know how often they were bound.

“We’ll have a better feel for that question once the interviews with the victims (are) completed later today,” he told NBC.

Some neighbors of Ariel Castro second-guessed themselves Tuesday, questioning why they hadn’t noticed signs earlier and if they could have prevented the horrors.

Neighbor Daniel Marti, for one, wonders why he didn’t question why Castro frequently brought bags of McDonald’s food into the house, or how Castro steered conversation away from his house.

“Now that I think of it, he didn’t want nobody back there,” said Marti, who said he has known Ariel Castro since junior high school and lived near him for some 22 years.

“This is a heartbreaking moment for us, because I’m always out there (and) I’ve heard nothing,” he said.

Relatives of the suspects were also troubled by the developments.

Maria Castro Montes, a cousin of the suspects, told CNN Wednesday if other family members had any inkling or suspicion of wrongdoing, they would have spoken up.

New details on homeowner

According to court documents, Ariel Castro’s former wife accused him of repeatedly abusing her, including breaking her nose twice, breaking two ribs, dislocating her shoulder twice and knocking out a tooth.

Grimilda Figueroa also accused Castro of causing a blood clot on her brain, according to the 2005 documents.

A judge granted a protection order, but lifted it three months later after repeated court delays and hearings Castro did not attend, according to the documents.

Castro was a school bus driver until November, when he was fired, according to school district records released Tuesday night.

His firing came after he had left his bus unattended outside a school after his preschool routes had been canceled, without notifying his dispatcher or depot.

“He previously had been suspended for 60 days for leaving a child on a bus; 60 days for making an illegal U-turn in rush hour traffic with a bus load of students, and last school year for using the bus to do his grocery shopping,” the letter recommending his dismissal states.

Tito DeJesus, a sometimes bandmate of Castro’s, said he had been inside of Castro’s home once, about two years ago, to help deliver a washer and dryer he’d sold to the suspect and saw “a normal environment.”

DeJesus said he isn’t related to the rescued Gina DeJesus but had known the family for years.

“It didn’t seem to be a place where women were being held against their will,” he said. “Of course, mind you, I didn’t go throughout the entire house. I was just at the beginning of the house, in the living room, but it seemed normal.”

No previous suspicions

Cleveland officials insistently batted down claims by neighbors that they called police to report suspicious activity at the home.

“Media reports of multiple calls to the Cleveland Police reporting suspicious activity and the mistreatment of women at 2207 Seymour are false,” spokeswoman Maureen Harper said in an e-mailed statement.

Other officials said call records contained no evidence that neighbors ever called police to report unusual activity at the home.

On Tuesday, neighbor Israel Lugo and another neighbor, Nina Samoylicz, told CNN that they had called police in recent years to report separate incidents at the home.

Samoylicz said she and others saw a naked woman in the home and called police.

Faliceonna Lopez, Samoylicz’ sister, told a slightly different version Tuesday night on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Live.” She said after seeing the woman, they told their mother, not police.

The mother, Annita Lugo, told Morgan that she didn’t call police, either, saying, ” I definitely would have called then but it was hours later and I really — I really didn’t — you know, I was just stuck. I was dumbfounded, didn’t know how to take it, you know?”

Police had visited the home twice, authorities said Tuesday, once after Castro called about a fight in the street and again in 2004 to investigate the bus incident.

‘We’re hoping for a miracle’

Investigators had previously speculated that the disappearances of Berry, DeJesus and another girl, 14-year-old Ashley Summers, may have been connected. Summers’ family last saw her in July 2007, when she was 14.

“We did in fact believe there was an association between the Berry case and the DeJesus case as well as the Summers case,” said former FBI agent Jennifer Eakin. Eakin is now a case manager at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which in 2008 held a comprehensive review of the cases with the FBI and Cleveland police.

Now the Summers family is hoping that the Cleveland investigation will yield information about Ashley, her aunt, Debra Summers, said.

“We’re hoping for a miracle,” she said.

Anderson, the FBI spokeswoman, said investigators will question the three women found Monday in the hope that they know something about Summers’ disappearance.

CNN’s Zoraida Sambolin reported from Cleveland and Ed Payne reported and wrote in Atlanta. Matt Smith, Greg Botelho, Michael Pearson, Tory Dunnan, Martin Savidge, Jason Hanna, Josh Levs, Steve Almasy, Laura Ly and Rande Iaboni also contributed to this report.

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Psychiatrist Carl Bell, the director of the Institute for Juvenile Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago, joins us this morning.

Authorities expect to file charges Wednesday against the three men arrested following the dramatic discovery of a trio of missing women who police say had been held captive for close to a decade.

ohio3womenmugs

(Photo Courtesy: CNN)

An administrative judge granted police an extension of the city’s usual 36-hour window to charge suspects, giving them until Wednesday evening to charge Ariel Castro, 52, who lived in the home where the women were found, and his brothers, 54-year-old Pedro Castro and 50-year-old Onil Castro, police Det. Jennifer Ciaccia said Tuesday.

Police arrested the three brothers Monday night after one of the women, 27-year-old Amanda Berry, staged a daring escape with the aid of a neighbor. In addition to Berry and a 6-year-old daughter apparently born to her during her captivity, police say Georgina “Gina” DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32, also were freed.

The three women disappeared from the same Cleveland street — Lorain Avenue — between 2002 and 2004.

The Castro brothers had not been questioned by police as of Tuesday night, Ciaccia said.

Meanwhile, the women were reuniting with family members they had not seen in nearly 10 years.

“I love you honey, thank God,” Berry’s tearful grandmother Fern Gentry could be heard telling the young woman in a telephone call recorded by CNN affiliate WJHL. “… I’ve thought about you all this time. I never forgot about you.”

Berry sounded upbeat — telling Gentry that she felt “fine” and that the 6-year-old girl also rescued Monday from the Cleveland home is indeed her own.

At the home of 23-year-old Georgina “Gina” DeJesus, balloons dotted the front yard. Also present: a sign that was first hung on a fence outside the home when Gina was first reported missing nine years ago.

Her 32-year-old sister, Mayra DeJesus, told CNN’s Poppy Harlow Tuesday that Gina — for all the hell she’s gone through — is in “good spirits.”

DeJesus spent the day with family, who didn’t focus on what she’d gone through but more on lifting her up, her sister said.

Fewer details have emerged about Knight.

Her mother, Barbara Knight, told NBC Wednesday that she had not yet spoken to her daughter, but believed that her sons — Michelle’s brothers — had.

“She’s probably angry at the world because she thought she would never be found but thank God that somebody did,” Knight told NBC.

When asked what she would say to her daughter, she said, “I love you and I missed you all this time.”

Police say Berry, Knight and DeJesus were being held in a home just three miles from the area where they were abducted.

They escaped after Berry broke out the bottom of a screen door and called for help Monday evening, startling neighbor Charles Ramsey, who came over and helped kick in the door.

“I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years,” the 27-year-old woman said in a frantic 911 call. “And I’m here. I’m free now.”

Some neighbors of Ariel Castro spent Tuesday second-guessing themselves, questioning why they hadn’t noticed signs earlier and if they could have prevented the horrors.

“This is a heartbreaking moment for us, because I’m always out there (and) I’ve heard nothing,” said Daniel Marti, who’s known Ariel Castro since junior high school and lived near him for some 22 years.

“… To us, it was like nothing was happening. But yet it was happening, right in front of our face and we didn’t even know.”

‘He didn’t want nobody back there’

The predominantly Latino neighborhood, made up mostly of two-story frame homes, sits within sight of downtown. The gentrification that has spiffed up districts on either end hasn’t extended to the blocks around Castro’s home, where a number of houses are boarded up. But the churches in the neighborhood still ring the bells in their steeples, and the neighbors say they look out for one another.

Authorities and several neighbors say they had no prior indication anything suspicious was going on at the nondescript home on Seymour Avenue, where a Puerto Rican flag hung from the porch.

But after Monday’s discovery, they reflected back and noticed things that, in retrospect, might have signaled something awry.

Marti, for one, asked himself why he didn’t question why Castro — who, he thought, lived alone — would return each day with bags of McDonald’s food, or who would watch the little girl he occasionally took outside. He also recalled how Castro seemed to steer him away from the house when they talked: “Now that I think of it, he didn’t want nobody back there.”

Another neighbor, Israel Lugo, said he saw Castro at the park Sunday with a little girl and asked who she was: “He said it was his girlfriend’s daughter.”

Lugo said his sister got a bad vibe from the house and asked him not to let the children play unsupervised nearby. He said he heard yelling in the house in November 2011 and called police to investigate, but they left after no one answered the door.

And Nina Samoylicz, who lives nearby, said she called police about two years ago after spotting a naked woman in the backyard of Castro’s house. Samoylicz said when she called out to the woman, a man told the woman to get in the house, then ran in himself.

“She was just walking around and naked,” Samoylicz said. “We thought that was weird. We thought it was funny at first, and then we thought that was weird, so we called the cops. They thought we was playing, joking, they didn’t believe us.”

She said she had also seen tarps covering the backyard.

But Sgt. Sammy Morris, a Cleveland police spokesman, told CNN that the department had no record of a 911 call reporting a naked woman at Castro’s address.

In fact, authorities never had any indications that the women were being held in the home or that anything suspicious was going on there, Cleveland Public Safety Director Martin Flask said. Neighbors had not provided any tips, he added.

Police had visited the home twice, authorities said Tuesday, once after Castro called about a fight in the street and another time to investigate Castro — a former school bus driver — on an unrelated incident involving a child who had been left on a bus.

The 2004 incident was the first of four exhibitions of “bad judgment” that led to Castro’s November firing by Cleveland’s school district, according to records released Tuesday night.

“He previously had been suspended for 60 days for leaving a child on a bus; 60 days for making an illegal U-turn in rush hour traffic with a bus load of students, and last school year for using the bus to do his grocery shopping,” the letter recommending his dismissal states. His firing came after he had left his bus unattended outside a school after his preschool routes had been canceled, without notifying his dispatcher or depot.

Tito DeJesus, a bandmate of Castro’s, said he had been inside the bass player’s home once, about two years ago, to help deliver a washer and dryer he’d sold to the suspect and saw “a normal environment.” DeJesus said he isn’t related to the rescued Gina DeJesus but had known the family for years.

“It didn’t seem to be a place where women were being held against their will,” he said. “Of course, mind you, I didn’t go throughout the entire house. I was just at the beginning of the house, in the living room, but it seemed normal.”

Finally free

Berry was last seen after finishing her shift at a Burger King in Cleveland on April 21, 2003. It was the eve of her 17th birthday. DeJesus disappeared nearly a year later, on April 2, 2004. She was 14.

Knight vanished on August 22, 2002. She never returned after going to a neighborhood store to use a pay phone, cousin Brenda Dinickle told CNN’s Zoraida Sambolin.

The family reported her missing the next day, Flask said. She was 21.

Dinickle described her cousin as mentally challenged.

“She had a mind of a child. She was slow,” Dinickle said.

Nicknamed “Shorty,” because of her diminutive 4-foot, 7-inch stature, the family thought Knight might be with the brother of a brother-in-law, but had no phone number to contact him.

News of her discovery came as a shock to brother Freddie Knight, who didn’t know she was missing until he saw the story on TV.

“I was freaking happy as hell, because I didn’t know my sister was kidnapped,” he said. “My mom never tells me anything.”

Knight said their mom, who now lives in Naples, Florida, kicked him out of the house when he was 14 and they remain estranged.

CNN not could immediately confirm the details of Knight’s account.

Knight said he met with his sister at the hospital and gave her a hug, saying the ordeal had left her traumatized.

“I hugged her because she wanted a hug,” he said. “My sister is going to move on, forget the past … , leave it behind, start anew.”

The three women and the child were released Tuesday from the hospital where they had been taken for evaluations, a spokeswoman said. Cleveland’s Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba said all four appeared to be in good condition, if in need of a good meal.

‘We’re hoping for a miracle’

Investigators had previously speculated that the disappearances of Berry, DeJesus and another girl, 14-year-old Ashley Summers, may have been connected. Summers’ family last saw her in July 2007, when she was 14.

“We did in fact believe there was an association between the Berry case and the DeJesus case as well as the Summers case,” said former FBI agent Jennifer Eakin. Eakin is now a case manager at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which in 2008 held a comprehensive review of the cases with the FBI and Cleveland police.

Now the Summers family is hoping that the Cleveland investigation will yield information about Ashley, her aunt, Debra Summers, said.

“We’re hoping for a miracle,” she said.

Vicki Anderson, the spokeswoman for the Cleveland FBI office, said investigators will question the three women found Monday in the hope that they know something about Summers’ disappearance.

CNN’s Zoraida Sambolin reported from Cleveland and Ed Payne reported and wrote in Atlanta. Matt Smith, Greg Botelho, Michael Pearson, Tory Dunnan, Martin Savidge, Jason Hanna, Josh Levs, Steve Almasy, Laura Ly and Rande Iaboni also contributed to this report.

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The first time most of America heard Amanda Berry’s voice was on a frantic 911 call.

“I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years,” the 27-year-old woman said on the call, which was made on Monday. “And I’m here. I’m free now.”

A day later, Berry could be heard again. This time talking to relatives, she seemed positive, even upbeat — telling her grandmother Fern Gentry that she’s “fine” and that the 6-year-old girl also rescued Monday from a Cleveland home is indeed her own.

“I love you honey, thank God,” her tearful grandmother said, in a call recorded by CNN affiliate WJHL. “… I’ve thought about you all this time. I never forgot about you.”

Back in northern Ohio, balloons dotted the frontyard of the home of 23-year-old Georgina “Gina” DeJesus, who along with Berry and Michelle Knight were allegedly held captive for years in a Cleveland house. There was also a sign strung along a fence, the same one that had been there since Gina was first reported missing nine years ago.

Her 32-year-old sister, Mayra DeJesus, told CNN’s Poppy Harlow on Tuesday that her sister — for all the hell she’s gone through — is in “good spirits.”

DeJesus spent the day with family, who didn’t focus on what she’d gone through but more on lifting her up, her sister said.

Her brother, Ricardo, earlier described how the whole family was crying and shaking upon hearing Gina was safe and alive.

“I was just glad to be able to see her,” he said. “It’s been nine long years. I was just happy I was able to sit there and hug her and say, ‘Yup, you’re finally home.’”

Berry, DeJesus and the 32-year-old Knight each disappeared from the same Cleveland street — Lorain Avenue — three miles from the home in which they were found Monday evening. They escaped after Berry broke out the bottom of a screen door and called for help Monday evening, startling neighbor Charles Ramsey who came over and helped kick in the door.

Cleveland police and the FBI hailed Berry as a hero for her daring escape.

“We’re following her lead,” Cleveland’s Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba said. “Without her, none of us would be here today.”

Three men have been jailed in the women’s disappearance — 54-year-old Pedro Castro, 50-year-old Onil Castro and 52-year-old Ariel Castro, who neighbors said lived at the house. All three are expected to be charged in the coming days.

Some neighbors of Ariel Castro spent Tuesday second-guessing themselves, questioning why they hadn’t noticed signs earlier and if they could have prevented the horrors.

“This is a heartbreaking moment for us, because I’m always out there (and) I’ve heard nothing,” said Daniel Marti, who’s known Ariel Castro since junior high school and lived near him for some 22 years.

“… To us, it was like nothing was happening. But yet it was happening, right in front of our face and we didn’t even know.”

‘He didn’t want nobody back there’

The predominantly Latino neighborhood, made up mostly of two-story frame homes, sits within sight of downtown. The gentrification that has spiffed up districts on either end hasn’t extended to the blocks around Castro’s home, where a number of houses are boarded up. But the churches in the neighborhood still ring the bells in their steeples, and the neighbors say they look out for one another.

Authorities and several neighbors say they had no prior indication anything suspicious was going on at the nondescript home on Seymour Avenue, where a Puerto Rican flag hung from the porch.

But after Monday’s discovery, they reflected back and noticed things that, in retrospect, might have signaled something awry.

Marti, for one, asked himself why he didn’t question why Castro — who, he thought, lived alone — would return each day with bags of McDonald’s food, or who would watch the little girl he occasionally took outside. He also recalled how Castro seemed to steer him away from the house when they talked: “Now that I think of it, he didn’t want nobody back there.”

Another neighbor, Israel Lugo, said saw Castro at the park Sunday with a little girl and asked who she was: “He said it was his girlfriend’s daughter.”

Lugo said his sister got a bad vibe from the house and asked him not to let the children play unsupervised nearby. He said he heard yelling in the house in November 2011 and called police to investigate, but they left after no one answered the door.

And Nina Samoylicz, who lives nearby, said she called police about two years ago after spotting a naked woman in the backyard of Castro’s house. Samoylicz said when she called out to the woman, a man told the woman to get in the house, then ran in himself.

“She was just walking around and naked,” Samoylicz said. “We thought that was weird. We thought it was funny at first, and then we thought that was weird, so we called the cops. They thought we was playing, joking, they didn’t believe us.”

She said she had also seen tarps covering the backyard.

But Sgt. Sammy Morris, a Cleveland police spokesman, told CNN that the department had no record of a 911 call reporting a naked woman at Castro’s address.

In fact, authorities never had any indications that the women were being held in the home or that anything suspicious was going on there, Cleveland Public Safety Director Martin Flask said. Neighbors had not provided any tips, he added.

Police had visited the home twice, authorities said Tuesday, once after Castro called about a fight in the street and another time to investigate Castro on an unrelated incident involving a child who had been left on a school bus.

The 2004 incident was the first of four exhibitions of “bad judgment” that led to Castro’s November firing by Cleveland’s school district, according to records released Tuesday night.

“He previously had been suspended for 60 days for leaving a child on a bus; 60 days for making an illegal U-turn in rush hour traffic with a bus load of students, and last school year for using the bus to do his grocery shopping,” the letter recommending his dismissal states. His firing came after he had left his bus unattended outside a school after his preschool routes had been canceled, without notifying his dispatcher or depot.

Tito DeJesus, a bandmate of Castro’s, said he had been inside the bass player’s home once, about two years ago, to help deliver a washer and dryer he’d sold to the suspect and saw “a normal environment.” DeJesus said he isn’t related to the rescued Gina DeJesus but had known the family for years.

“It didn’t seem to be a place where women were being held against their will,” he said. “Of course, mind you, I didn’t go throughout the entire house. I was just at the beginning of the house, in the living room, but it seemed normal.”

Finally free

Berry was last seen after finishing her shift at a Burger King in Cleveland on April 21, 2003. It was the eve of her 17th birthday. DeJesus disappeared nearly a year later, on April 2, 2004. She was 14.

ohiomissingwomen

Michelle Knight vanished on August 22, 2002, and her family reported her missing the next day, Flask said. She was 21.

Little was known about Knight’s case Tuesday. Her mother now lives in Naples, Florida, and was contacted by Cleveland police late Monday, a neighbor, Sheldon Gofberg, told CNN.

The three women and the child were released Tuesday from the hospital where they had been taken for evaluations, a spokeswoman said. Tomba said all four appeared to be in good condition, if in need of a good meal.

While amazing, such discoveries are more common now, said John D. Ryan, CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

“To us at the National Center, this is not something that we find shocking any more,” he said. “The fact is, we have seen more and more long-term missing cases end up in the v

ictim being rescued many years after their original abduction.”

The most widely reported such incident in recent years was that of Jaycee Dugard, who was freed in 2009 after 18 years of captivity behind the home of a California couple.

In another case, Ryan said last year a 43-year-old man was found and reunited with his mother after being abducted at the age of 2.

More than anything, the three victims need privacy and time with family members, said Elizabeth Smart, who was in the headlines in 2002 when she was kidnapped from her Utah home at age 14 and held captive for nine months.

“I want them to know that nothing that has happened to them will ever diminish their value and it should never hold them back from doing what they want to do,” Smart told CNN’s “The Situation Room.”

The women should not feel pressure to speak publicly about their ordeal, Smart said, adding that time will help them heal. “It’s just incredible they are walking away from this horrendous nightmare, alive and safe today,” she said.

‘We’re hoping for a miracle’

Investigators had previously speculated that the disappearances of Berry, DeJesus and another girl, 14-year-old Ashley Summers, may have been connected. Summers’ family last saw her in July 2007, when she was 14.

“We did in fact believe th

ere was an association between the Berry case and the DeJesus case as well as the Summers case,” said former FBI agent Jennifer Eakin. Eakin is now a case manager at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which in 2008 held a comprehensive review of the cases with the FBI and Cleveland police.

Now the Summers family is hoping that the Cleveland investigation will yield information about Ashley, her aunt, Debra Summers, said.

“We’re hoping for a miracle,” she said.

Anderson, the spokeswoman for the Cleveland FBI office, said investigators will question the three women found Monday in the hope that they know something about Summers’ disappearance.

The suspects

Of the three brothers arrested, Ariel Castro was the only one to live at the home where the three women were apparently held, police said. The others lived elsewhere in the city.

Their uncle, Julio Castro, told CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360″ on Monday that his family had grown up in the same west Cleveland neighborhood and knew t

he Georgina DeJesus family.

Julio Castro told CNN’s Martin Savidge on Tuesday that family members were “surprised” over the developments.

“Shame on you,” Julio Castro said, when asked what he would say to his nephews.

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She knew she didn’t have long. He would be back soon. After 10 long years in captivity, this was Amanda Berry’s chance.

She broke out the bottom of a screen door and screamed, startling a neighbor who came over and helped kick in the door. Then, frenzied, panicked, tearful freedom.

“Help me, I am Amanda Berry,” the 27-year-old woman told police in a frantic 911 call from the neighbor’s house. “I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years. And I’m here, I’m free now.”

Cleveland police and the FBI hailed Berry as a hero for her daring escape Monday night that also led to freedom for two other women held inside the house — Georgina “Gina” DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32. All three had disappeared close to a decade ago from the same Cleveland neighborhood.

A 6-year-old girl that police said is believed to be Berry’s daughter was also freed.

“We were in disbelief,” said DeJesus’s brother, Ricardo. “We cried. We were shaking. We were just happy.”

“I was just glad to be able to see her,” he added. “It’s been nine long years. I was just happy I was able to sit there and hug her and say, ‘Yup, you’re finally home.”

Police arrested former school bus driver Ariel Castro, 52, who lived at the house and was identified by Berry on the 911 call. Authorities also picked up his brothers, Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50. All three are jailed pending charges in the case, police said Tuesday.

“The real hero here is Amanda,” Cleveland’s Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba said. “She’s the one that got this rolling. Without her, none of us would be here today.”

FBI agents in protective suits brought a search dog into Castro’s home Tuesday afternoon, and investigators towed a Jeep Cherokee and a pickup away from the home. Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath said evidence technicians may need several more days to go through the house.

No federal charges are expected, but state charges would likely be filed by Thursday, FBI Special Agent Vicki Anderson said. Anderson declined to discuss the conditions under which the women had allegedly been held.

One neighborhood, three missing women

The predominantly Latino neighborhood, made up mostly of two-story frame homes, sits within sight of downtown. The gentrification that has spiffed up districts on either end hasn’t extended to the blocks around Castro’s home, where a number of houses are boarded up. But the churches in the neighborhood still ring the bells in their steeples, and the neighbors say they look out for one another.

Tito DeJesus, a bandmate of Castro’s, said he had been inside the home once, about two years ago, to help deliver a washer and dryer he’d sold to the suspect.

“I saw a normal environment,” Tito DeJesus said. “It didn’t seem to be a place where women were being held against their will. Of course, mind you, I didn’t go throughout the entire house. I was just at the beginning of the house, in the living room, but it seemed normal.”

DeJesus said he isn’t related to the rescued Gina DeJesus but had known the family for years.

The women vanished in separate incidents nearly a decade ago, within blocks of each other, according to police. Each disappeared from the same Cleveland street — Lorain Avenue — three miles from the home in which they were found Monday.

While little is known of what the women went through inside, Berry seemed to have seized the moment to escape when Castro left the house. When the 911 dispatcher told her officers would be on their way “as soon as we get a car open,” Berry panicked, saying “No, I need them now, before he gets back.”

She also indicated she had some knowledge of the outside world, or at least how much coverage her 2003 disappearance had received, telling the 911 dispatcher, “I’ve been on the news for the last 10 years.”

‘He didn’t want nobody back there’

Authorities and several neighbors say they had no prior indication anything suspicious was going on at the nondescript home on Seymour Avenue, where a Puerto Rican flag hung from the porch.

“This is a heartbreaking moment for us, because I’m always out there and I’ve never heard nothing — no kind of noise come out of that house,” said longtime neighbor Daniel Marti, a junior-high classmate of Castro’s.

But after Monday’s discovery, he said Castro always seemed to steer him away from the house when they talked: “Now that I think of it, he didn’t want nobody back there.”

And a few neighbors said they had called police in recent years after hearing yelling at the house and, in another incident, seeing a naked woman walking in the backyard.

Nina Samoylicz, who lives nearby, said she called police about two years ago after spotting a naked woman walking around the backyard of Castro’s house, and called out to her. She said a man told the woman to get in the house, then ran in himself.

“She was just walking around and naked,” Samoylicz said. “We thought that was weird. We thought it was funny at first, and then we thought that was weird, so we called the cops. They thought we was playing, joking, they didn’t believe us.”

She said she had also seen tarps covering the backyard.

Another neighbor, Israel Lugo, said his sister got a bad vibe from the house and asked him not to let the children play unsupervised nearby. He said he heard yelling in the house in November 2011 and called police to investigate, but they left after no one answered the door.

Neighbors reported seeing the 6-year-old who left the home with Berry out playing sometimes at a neighborhood park. Lugo said he saw Castro at the park Sunday with a little girl and asked who she was: “He said it was his girlfriend’s daughter.”

But authorities never had any indications that the women were being held in the home or that anything suspicious was going on there, Cleveland Public Safety Director Martin Flask said. Neighbors had not provided any tips, he added.

Police had visited the home twice, authorities said Tuesday, once after Ariel Castro called about a fight in the street and another time to investigate Castro on an unrelated incident involving a child who had been left on a school bus.

Investigators also plan to inspect other properties possibly owned by Castro, according to Tomba. They haven’t yet interviewed the women in detail to learn about their abductions and decade in captivity, he added.

“Our first and foremost concern was their mental well-being,” he said.

Finally free

Berry was last seen after finishing her shift at a Burger King in Cleveland on April 21, 2003. It was the eve of her 17th birthday. DeJesus disappeared nearly a year later, on April 2, 2004. She was 14.

Michelle Knight vanished on August 22, 2002, and her family reported her missing the next day, Flask said. She was 21.

Little was known about Knight’s case Tuesday. Her mother now lives in Naples, Florida, and was contacted by Cleveland police late Monday, a neighbor, Sheldon Gofberg, told CNN.

The three women and the child were released Tuesday from the hospital where they had been taken for evaluations, a spokeswoman said. Tomba said all four appeared to be in good condition, if in need of a good meal.

While amazing, such discoveries are more common now, said John D. Ryan, CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

“To us at the National Center, this is not something that we find shocking any more,” he said. “The fact is, we have seen more and more long term missing cases end up in the victim being rescued many years after their original abduction.”

The most widely reported such incident in recent years was that of Jaycee Dugard, who was freed in 2009 after 18 years of captivity behind the home of a California couple. Dugard released a statement Tuesday saying the women who broke free in Cleveland “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.”

In another case, Ryan said last year a 43-year-old man was found and reunited with his mother after being abducted at the age of 2.

Investigators had previously speculated that the disappearances of Berry, DeJesus and another girl, 14-year-old Ashley Summers, may have been connected. Summers’ family last saw her in July 2007, when she was 14.

“We did in fact believe there was an association between the Berry case and the DeJesus case as well as the Summers case,” said former FBI agent Jennifer Eakin. Eakin is now a case manager at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which in 2008 held a comprehensive review of the cases with the FBI and Cleveland police.

Now the Summers family is hoping that the Cleveland investigation will yield information about Ashley, her aunt, Debra Summers, said.

“We’re hoping for a miracle,” she said.

Anderson, the spokeswoman for the Cleveland FBI office, said investigators will question the three women found Monday in the hope that they know something about Summers’ disappearance.

The suspects

Of the three brothers arrested, Ariel Castro was the only one to live at the home where the three women were apparently held, police said. The others lived elsewhere in the city.

Their uncle, Julio Castro, told CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360″ on Monday that his family had grown up in the same west Cleveland neighborhood and knew the DeJesus family.

Castro told CNN’s Martin Savidge on Tuesday that family members were “surprised” over the developments.

“Shame on you,” Julio Castro said, when asked what he would say to his nephews.

Ariel Castro used to work as a bus driver for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, according to district spokeswoman Roseann Canfora. She did not have specifics Monday night on how long he was employed, when he left or whether he was fired or left voluntarily.
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Charles Ramsey was eating some dinner Monday night when he heard screaming. Soon, he was knocking down a neighbor’s door, freeing three women and a girl who police say were held hostage for years.

Within hours, he was a national hero, a viral video star, and the top topic on Twitter.

“I’m eating my McDonald’s, I come outside, and I see this girl going nuts, trying to get out of the house,” he told CNN affiliate WEWS in an interview watched around the world.

“I got on the porch and she said, ‘Help me get out. I’ve been here a long time.” I figured it was a domestic violence dispute. So I open the door. And we can’t get in that way ’cause of how the door is, it’s so much that a body can’t fit through; only your hand.”

He and a man named Angel Cordero broke down the door, WEWS reported.

“We kicked the bottom. And she comes out with a little girl and she says ‘Call 911. My name is Amanda Berry.”

He immediately called 911 — and only then realized that Berry was the woman who had been missing for years. “I thought this girl was dead,” he said.

“She’s like, ‘This (expletive) kidnapped me and my daughter,’” he told the 911 operator.

After police arrived, Berry explained there were other women inside. When police came out with them, Ramsey said, “it was astonishing.”

Berry was last seen after finishing her shift at a Burger King in Cleveland in 2003 on the eve of her 17th birthday. The other two women are Georgina “Gina” DeJesus, who disappeared at age 14 in 2004, and Michelle Knight, who vanished 2002 at age 19, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper.

While Ramsey’s quick action made him a hero, his colorful descriptions helped make him dream fodder for the Twitterverse.

Explaining that he had no idea Ariel Castro, his neighbor, may have had other people inside his home, Ramsey said, “I’ve been here a year. You see where I’m coming from? I barbecue with this dude. We eat ribs and whatnot and listen to salsa music…

“He just comes out to his backyard, plays with the dogs, tinkers with his cars and motorcycles, goes back in the house. So he’s somebody you look, then look away. He’s not doing anything, but the average stuff. You see what I’m saying? There’s nothing exciting about him. Well, until today.”

Castro “got some big testicles to pull this off, bro,” Ramsey said. “Because we see this dude every day. I mean every day.”

He added, “I knew something was wrong when a little, pretty white girl ran into a black man’s arms. Something is wrong here. Dead giveaway.”

In one of the top tweets about Ramsey, comedian Patton Oswalt wrote, “Dear Charles Ramsey: I am not a little pretty white girl, but I totally want to run into your black arms. #hero.”

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