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Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus & Michelle Knight Found Alive!

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Monday, May 6, 2013:

CLEVELAND - Cleveland police said missing teens Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and a third woman were found in a west side house on Monday.

Hundreds of people gathered in the streets near 2207 Seymour Avenue in Cleveland , where the women were discovered. Cleveland police said Berry , DeJesus and Michelle Knight are alive, talking and appear to be OK.

“I heard screaming… And I see this girl going nuts trying to get outside,” said Charles, a neighbor would found the women. “I go on the porch and she said ‘Help me get out. I’ve been here a long time.’ I figure it was domestic violence dispute."

“She comes out with a little girl and says ‘Call 911, my name is Amanda Berry’… When she told me, it didn’t register.” He said he made the call and gave Berry the phone. When police arrived, officers asked him if he knew who he rescued.

A witness who spoke Spanish told NewsChannel5's Stephanie Ramirez that he helped break down the door. He said there was a child who was about 4 or 5 years old with Berry , as well as other children inside the house. He said he recognized Berry from posters.

Officers have a suspect in custody. There will be a media briefing Tuesday morning.

Berry was last seen in 2003 when she was called her sister to say she was getting a ride home from work at the Burger King on West 110th Street and Lorain Avenue . She was set to turn 17 the day after her disappearance. Her mother died of heart failure in 2006.

On April 2, 2004, 14-year-old DeJesus went missing while walking home from Wilbur Wright Middle School . She was last seen around West 105 Street and Lorain Avenue . Her mother, Nancy Ruiz, said she believed DeJesus was sold into human trafficking.

“I always said it from the beginning; she was sold to the highest bidder,” Ruiz said in April 2012.

The remaining families of both women went to Metro Health Medical Center , where they will be reunited. FBI agents were also at the hospital Monday night as family and friends flocked to see the women.

Last summer, there was a break in Berry case that turned out to be an inmate’s hoax. Robert Wolford, 26, told authorities that Berry ’s body was in a vacant lot in Cleveland . Police searched at West 30th Street and Wade Avenue in July with backhoes, but nothing was found. Wolford was sentenced to four and half years in prison after pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, making a false report and making a false alarm.

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Amanda Berry & Gina DeJesus

Frantic 911 call leads to 3 missing women in Ohio

By THOMAS J. SHEERAN and JOHN COYNE / AP

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013:

CLEVELAND (AP) — The woman's voice was frantic and breathless, and she was 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."

Those words led police to a house near downtown Cleveland where Berry and two other women who vanished a decade ago were found Monday, elating family members and friends who had longed to see them again.

Authorities later arrested three brothers, ages 50 to 54. A relative said one of them is the homeowner, his nephew Ariel Castro.

Police Chief Michael McGrath said he thinks Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were tied up at the house and held there since they were in their teens or early 20s.

A 6-year-old also was found in the home, and Cleveland police Deputy Chief Ed Tomba said Tuesday that the girl is believed to be Berry's daughter. He declined to say who the father was.

The women appeared to be in good health and were taken to a hospital to be evaluated and reunited with relatives. They were released from Metro Health Medical Center on Tuesday morning.

Authorities declined to say whether the women were restrained or if any of them had been sexually assaulted.

Neighbor Juan Perez told NBC's "Today" show that he rarely saw Castro or anyone else at the house.

"I thought the home was vacant. I thought he probably had another property and he would just come and check and see if everything is OK." Perez said. "I didn't even know anybody lived there."

The women's escape and rescue began with a frenzied cry for help.

A neighbor, Charles Ramsey, told WEWS-TV he heard screaming Monday and saw Berry, whom he didn't recognize, at a door that would open only enough to fit a hand through. He said she was trying desperately to get outside and pleaded for help to reach police.

"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, which allowed her to get out.

Speaking Spanish, which was translated by one of her friends, 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 a 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 told the dispatcher. "And I'm here. I'm free now."

Police said Knight disappeared in 2002 at age 20 and is 32 now. 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. They were found just a few miles from where they had vanished.

Police identified the three suspects as Ariel Castro, 52; Pedro Castro, 54; and Onil Castro, 50.

Julio Castro, who runs a grocery store half a block from where the women were found, said Ariel Castro is the homeowner and his nephew.

Attempts to reach Ariel Castro in jail were unsuccessful Monday. There was no public phone listing for the home, which was being searched by dozens of police officers and sheriff's deputies.

Officials said Tuesday they had no records of anyone calling about criminal activity at the house where three kidnapped women were kept for years before being found. They also had no records of code violations or fire department calls.

Police did go to the house twice in the past 15 years, officials said.

In 2000, before the women vanished, Ariel Castro reported a fight in the street, but no arrests were made, Public Safety Director Martin Flask said. In 2004, officers went to the home after child welfare officials alerted them that Ariel Castro, a school bus driver, apparently left a child unattended on a bus, Flask said. No one answered the door at Castro's house, and police later determined there was no criminal intent, he said.

The women's loved ones said they hadn't given up hope of seeing them again.

A childhood friend of DeJesus, Kayla Rogers, said she couldn't wait to hug her.

"I've been praying, never forgot about her, ever," Rogers told The Plain Dealer newspaper.

Berry's cousin Tasheena Mitchell told the newspaper she couldn't wait to have Berry in her arms.

"I'm going to hold her, and I'm going to squeeze her and I probably won't let her go," she said.

Berry's mother, Louwana Miller, who had been hospitalized for months with pancreatitis and other ailments, died in March 2006. She had spent the previous three years looking for her daughter, whose disappearance took a toll as her health steadily deteriorated, family and friends said.

Councilwoman Dona Brady said she had spent many hours with Miller, who never gave up hope that her daughter was alive.

"She literally died of a broken heart," Brady said.

Mayor Frank Jackson expressed gratitude that the three women were found alive. He said there are many unanswered questions in the ongoing investigation.

Associated Press writer Kantele Franko in Columbus contributed to this report.

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Cleveland Kidnapper Ariel Castro Found Hanged in Prison Cell

By ANTHONY CASTELLANO and REBECCA LEE

Ariel Castro, who was convicted of kidnapping, torturing and imprisoning three young women for over a decade, has died after being found hanged in his prison cell, the Ohio Department of Corrections said.

Castro, 53, was found hanging in his cell at Correctional Reception Center in Orient, Ohio, Tuesday night at 9:20 p.m. local time, corrections spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said.

Facility staff tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate the prisoner, according to Smith. Castro was taken to Ohio State University Medical Center and was pronounced dead at 10:52 p.m. Officials didn't provide further details on the apparent suicide.

"Inmate Ariel Castro was found hanging in his cell this evening at 9:20 p.m. at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient. He was housed in protective custody which means he was in a cell by himself and rounds are required every 30 minutes at staggered intervals," Smith said in a statement. Castro was not on a suicide watch, which would have required constant observation.

"A thorough review of this incident is underway and more information can be provided as it becomes available pending the status of the investigation," the statement concluded.

Castro was sentenced to life in prison without parole plus 1,000 years by an Ohio judge Aug. 1. Castro, a former school bus driver, kidnapped Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus between 2002 and 2004 and imprisoned them, sometimes restrained by chains, in his Cleveland home.

Castro pleaded guilty to 937 counts, including kidnapping, rape, assault and aggravated murder. The plea deal spared Castro the death penalty because he was accused of the aggravated murder of a fetus after forcibly causing an abortion in one of his victims that he is accused of impregnating.

Cleveland Kidnapper Ariel Castro: 'I Am Not a Monster'

The women escaped May 6, when Berry broke part of a door and yelled to neighbors for help. Castro was arrested that evening.

The home where Castro held his victims was torn down last month as part of the plea deal.

Castro was also watched closely in the Cuyahoga County Jail in the weeks after his arrest. He was taken off county jail suicide watch in early June after authorities determined he was not a suicide risk.

At Castro's sentencing hearing last month, he shocked a Cleveland court by saying he was "not a monster," "lived a normal life" and that the sex he had with the three women he held captive for more than a decade was "consensual."

Castro's statement came after Knight confronted him for the "hell" she endured in his house for 11 years.

Castro showed no reaction to the remarks by Knight. Instead, he gave a rambling speech in which he depicted himself as a person who had "everything going" for himself but was plagued by an addiction to porn.

Cleveland Kidnapper Ariel Castro's 'House of Horrors' Demolished

During the hearing, detectives told how he captured the three women and subjected them to a decade of torture, which one woman wrote in a diary was like being held as a "prisoner of war."

While in captivity, Berry gave birth to her now 6-year-old daughter, who Castro fathered.

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