“Help! Help Me!”
A young woman’s desperate cries alerted neighbors Monday to a frightening tale in Cleveland.
As we reported last evening, three young women who had gone missing between 2002 and 2004 were found Monday afternoon inside a home where the shades were said to be always drawn. No one who lives nearby seems to have suspected that there might be kidnap victims inside.
The women are Amanda Berry (27), Gina DeJesus (23) and Michelle Knight (30), whose disappearances generated much attention in local media over the past decade. Three brothers in their 50s have been arrested. One has been identified in reports from NPR member station WCPN and other news outlets as the owner of the house, Ariel Castro.
According to The Associated Press: “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. Police said Knight disappeared in 2002 and is 32 now.” They are being treated at a Cleveland area hospital, where they’re reported to be in fair condition.
As Tuesday dawns, we’re learning more about how the women were discovered and what neighbors say about the man who they would see coming and going from the home.
On Morning Edition, WCPN’s Bill Rice played a clip from a frantic 911 call Berry made after her escape. “Help me, I’m Amanda Berry. … I’ve been kidnapped and been missing for 10 years. I am here, I’m free now,” she says. (A transcript of her call is posted here.)
WCPN’s Rice also reported on neighbor Charles Ramsey’s account of Berry’s cries for help from inside the house.
“I heard screaming,” Ramsey said. “I come outside I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of the house. So I go on the porch and she says help me get out. I’ve been in here a long time.”
Ramsey says Berry was pushing her hand out part of a door as she yelled. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “Ramsey said Castro took off running while Ramsey kicked and broke the bottom of a door, allowing Berry to crawl out. Police arrested Castro at a nearby McDonald’s restaurant and brought the other two women out of the house, witnesses said.”
A young child also emerged from the home, according to local news reports.
As for the man who lived in the home, the Plain Dealer writes that “Mike Iwais, a longtime resident in the neighborhood, lives in a house just a parking lot away — about 200 feet — from Castro’s house. ‘I used to see him walking around all the time,’ he said. ‘But I never saw nothing crazy. This is unbelievable. It’s a miracle they found him, and it’s a miracle those girls are alive. It’s a blessing from God.’ “
On Morning Edition, WCPN’s Rice reported that other neighbors “say Castro would park his red pickup truck behind his house, lock the gate and enter though a back door. The house was often dark, with shades blocking the windows.” Rice also reported that:
“Rescuer Charles Ramsey says he never saw Castro do anything suspicious. ‘He just comes out to his backyard, plays with the dogs, tinkers with his cars and with his motorcycles, and goes back in the house,’ Ramsey said. “So he’s just somebody who you look, and then look away, because he’s not doing’ nothin’ but the average stuff.’ “
Cleveland’s NewsNet5 has more coverage here.