Kidnapped Girls Rescued: Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight Found Alive in Cleveland; Suspect Ariel Castro Arrested

Police in Cleveland, Ohio, have rescued three women who had been kidnapped as teenagers years ago and apparently held in a home on the West Side of the city. Amanda Berry was 16 when she was kidnapped in 2003; Gina DeJesus was 14 when she disappeared in 2004; Michelle Knight was 18 when she went missing in 2002. Police have arrested the homeowner, Ariel Castro, 52 — identified as the kidnapper in a dramatic 911 call Amanda Berry made — as well as his two brothers, whose names were not immediately released.

UPDATE: Castro reportedly worked as a Cleveland school bus driver. Four years ago, the FBI told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the disappearances of Berry and DeJesus were believed to be related, as well as the case of another Cleveland girl, Ashley Summers, who was 14 when she went missing in 2007.

The cases of the missing Cleveland girls took heartbreaking turns over the years. In 2004, Amanda’s mother Louwana Miller went on a national TV show to discuss the case and was told by a psychic her daughter was dead:

Desperate for any clue as to Amanda Berry’s whereabouts, and tired of unanswered questions from authorities, Miller turned to a psychic on Montel Williams’ nationally syndicated television show.
The psychic said what the FBI, police and Miller hadn’t.
“She’s not alive, honey,” Sylvia Browne told her matter-of-factly. “Your daughter’s not the kind who wouldn’t call.”

Miller died in 2006 at age 44; family members blamed the agonizing loss of her daughter for Miller’s death.

UPDATE II: The neighbor who helped rescue the women, Charles Ramsey, told a Cleveland TV station that he had suspected something was amiss at the home where they were kept captive, a concern his friend dismissed as “paranoid.”

“I hear this girl screaming and she’s going nuts. And … there’s no girl that lives in that house. So that’s a dead giveaway that something’s wrong. … She said, ‘My name is Amanda Berry. Please, get me out of this house.’ … I didn’t think it was really that girl that’s been missing, been gone so long. … Then she said there was two more girls in the house. … I told [my neighbor] there was something wrong with that house.”

UPDATE III: The cases of the two younger girls kidnapped, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, had gotten widespread publicity in Cleveland media, but few people in the community had been aware of Michelle Knight’s disappearance:

Knight’s grandmother, Deborah Knight said in an interview Monday that, based on the recommendation of police and social workers, family members had concluded that Michelle likely left on her own because she was angry that her son was removed from her custody.
But Michelle Knight’s mother, Barbara Knight, said she and Michelle were close, and she never believed that her daughter would disappear without a trace, without so much as an occasional phone call.
Barbara Knight, who now lives in Florida, said long after police stopped searching, she papered Cleveland’s West Side with fliers. And even after moving out of state, would often return to continue the search on her own.
Knight said she believes she once saw her daughter walking with an older man at a shopping plaza on West 117th Street several years ago. When the woman trailed behind her companion, he would grab her by the arm and pull her along, Knight said. She said that she yelled Michelle’s name, but the woman did not turn around.

UPDATE IV: The three kidnapped women have been released from a hospital where they were taken for treatment after having reportedly been held captive as sex slaves in what news accounts are now describing as “a house of horrors.” At least one of the girls gave birth to a daughter while in captivity; the child is reportedly 6 years old. In her call to 911, one of the kidnapped victims told a police dispatcher: “Help me, I am Amanda Berry. . . .I’ve been kidnapped and I’ve been missing for 10 years. And I’m here, I’m free now.”

UPDATE V: In another local news interview, neighbor Charles Ramsey told a reporter:

“We seen this dude everyday. … I barbecued with this dude… We eat ribs and what not, and listen to salsa music. … I knew something was wrong when a little, pretty white girl ran into a black man’s arms. Something is wrong here. Dead giveaway.”

UPDATE VI: Suspect Ariel Castro ‘Was a Nice Guy,’ Neighbor Says; Cleveland School Bus Driver Arrested in ‘House of Horrors’ Kidnapping Case