Police facing questions following 3 women's rescue in Ohio - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Police facing questions following 3 women's rescue in Ohio

Posted: Updated:
Amanda Berry, right, hugs her sister Beth Serrano after being reunited in a Cleveland hospital Monday May 6, 2013.  (AP Photo/Family Handout courtesy WOIO-TV) Amanda Berry, right, hugs her sister Beth Serrano after being reunited in a Cleveland hospital Monday May 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Family Handout courtesy WOIO-TV)
These undated handout photos provided by the FBI show Amanda Berry, left, and Georgina "Gina" Dejesus. (AP/FBI Photo) These undated handout photos provided by the FBI show Amanda Berry, left, and Georgina "Gina" Dejesus. (AP/FBI Photo)

CLEVELAND (AP) — One neighbor says a naked woman was seen crawling on her hands and knees in the backyard of the house a few years ago. Another heard pounding on the home's doors and noticed plastic bags over the windows.

Both times, police showed up but never went inside, neighbors say. Police also paid a visit to the house in 2004, but no one answered the door.

Now, after three women who vanished a decade ago were found captive Monday at the run-down house, Cleveland police are facing questions for the second time in four years about their handling of missing-person cases and are conducting an internal review to see if they overlooked anything.

City Safety Director Martin Flask said Tuesday that investigators had no record of anyone calling about criminal activity at the house but were still checking police, fire and emergency databases.

The three women were rescued after one of them kicked out the bottom portion of a locked screen door and used a neighbor's telephone to call 911.

"Help me. I'm Amanda Berry," she breathlessly told a dispatcher in a call that exhilarated and astonished much of the city. "I've been kidnapped, and I've been missing for 10 years and I'm, I'm here, I'm free now."

Berry, 27, Michelle Knight, 32, and Gina DeJesus, about 23, had apparently been held captive in the house since their teens or early 20s, police Chief Michael McGrath said.

Three brothers, ages 50 to 54, were arrested. One of them, former school bus driver Ariel Castro, owned the home, situated in a poor neighborhood dotted with boarded-up houses just south of downtown. No charges were filed.

This undated combination photo released by the Cleveland Police Department shows from left, Onil Castro, Ariel Castro, and Pedro Casto. (AP Photo/Cleveland Police Dept.)

A relative of the three brothers said their family was "totally shocked" after hearing about the missing women being found at the home.

Juan Alicea said the arrests of his wife's brothers had left relatives "as blindsided as anyone else" in their community. He said he hadn't been to the home of his brother-in-law Ariel Castro since the early 1990s but had eaten dinner with Castro at a different brother's house shortly before the arrests were made Monday.

A 6-year-old girl believed to be Berry's daughter also was found in the home, police Deputy Chief Ed Tomba said. He would not say who the father was.

The women were reported by police to be in good health and were reunited with joyous family members but remained in seclusion.

A "Welcome Home Gina " sign hangs on a fence outside the home of Gina DeJesus Tuesday, May 7, 2013, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

"Prayers have finally been answered. The nightmare is over," said Stephen Anthony, head of the FBI in Cleveland. "These three young ladies have provided us with the ultimate definition of survival and perseverance. The healing can now begin."

He added: "Words can't describe the emotions being felt by all. Yes, law enforcement professionals do cry."

Police would not say how the women were taken captive or how they were hidden in the neighborhood where they had vanished. Investigators also would not say whether they were kept in restraints inside the house or sexually assaulted.

Four years ago, in another poverty-stricken part of town, police were heavily criticized following the discovery of 11 women's bodies in the home and backyard of Anthony Sowell, who was later convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

The families of Sowell's victims accused police of failing to properly investigate the disappearances because most of the women were addicted to drugs and poor. For months, the stench of death hung over the house, but it was blamed on a sausage factory next door.

In the wake of public outrage over the killings, a panel formed by the mayor recommended an overhaul of the city's handling of missing-person and sex crime investigations.

This time, two neighbors said they called police to the Castro house on separate occasions.

Elsie Cintron, who lives three houses away, said her daughter saw a naked woman crawling in the backyard several years ago and called police. "But they didn't take it seriously," she said.

Another neighbor, Israel Lugo, said he heard pounding on some of the doors of the house in November 2011. Lugo said officers knocked on the front door, but no one answered. "They walked to side of the house and then left," he said.

"Everyone in the neighborhood did what they had to do," said Lupe Collins, who is close to relatives of the women. "The police didn't do their job."

Police did go to the house twice in the past 15 years, but not in connection with the women's disappearance, officials said.

In 2000, before the women vanished, Castro reported a fight in the street, but no arrests were made, Flask said.

In 2004, officers went to the home after child welfare officials alerted them that Castro had apparently left a child unattended on a bus, Flask said. No one answered the door, according to Flask. Ultimately, police determined there was no criminal intent on his part, he said.

Castro, 52, was well known in the mainly Puerto Rican neighborhood. He played bass guitar in salsa and merengue bands. He gave children rides on his motorcycle and joined others at a candlelight vigil to remember two of the missing girls, neighbors said. They also said they would sometimes see him walking a little girl to a neighborhood playground.

Tito DeJesus, an uncle of Gina DeJesus, played in bands with Castro over the last 20 years. He recalled visiting Castro's house but never noticed anything out of the ordinary, saying it had very little furniture and was filled with musical instruments.

"I had no clue, no clue whatsoever that this happened," he said.

Also arrested were Castro's brothers Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50. Calls to the jail went unanswered, and there was no response to interview requests sent to police, the jail and city officials.

Ariel Castro's son, Anthony Castro, said in an interview with London's Daily Mail newspaper that he now speaks with his father just a few times a year and seldom visited his house. He said on his last visit, two weeks ago, his father wouldn't let him inside.

"The house was always locked," he said. "There were places we could never go. There were locks on the basement. Locks on the attic. Locks on the garage."

Anthony Castro, who lives in Columbus, also wrote an article for a community newspaper in Cleveland about the disappearance of Gina DeJesus just weeks after she went missing, when he was a college journalism student.

"That I wrote about this nearly 10 years ago — to find out that it is now so close to my family — it's unspeakable," he told The Plain Dealer newspaper.

On Tuesday, a sign hung on a fence decorated with dozens of balloons outside the home of DeJesus' parents read "Welcome Home Gina." Her aunt Sandra Ruiz said her niece had an emotional reunion with family members.

"Those girls, those women are so strong," Ruiz said. "What we've done in 10 years is nothing compared to what those women have done in 10 years to survive."

Many of the women's loved ones and friends had held out hope of seeing them again,

For years, Berry's mother kept her room exactly as it was, said Tina Miller, a cousin. When magazines addressed to Berry arrived, they were piled in the room alongside presents for birthdays and Christmases she missed. Berry's mother died in 2006.

Just over a month ago, Miller attended a vigil marking the 10th anniversary of Berry's disappearance.

Over the past decade or so, investigators twice dug up backyards looking for Berry and continued to receive tips about her and DeJesus every few months, even in recent years. The disappearance of the two girls was profiled on TV's "America's Most Wanted" in 2005. Few leads ever came in about Knight.

Knight vanished at age 20 in 2002. Berry disappeared at 16 in 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 14 on her way home from school.

Jessica Aponce, 24, said she walked home with DeJesus the day the teenager disappeared.

"She called her mom and told her mom she was on her way home and that's the last time I seen her," Aponce said. "I just can't wait to see her. I'm just so happy she's alive. It's been so many years that everybody thinking she was dead."

Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard, who were held captive by abductors at a young age, said they were elated by the women's rescue.

"We need to have constant vigilance, constantly keep our eyes open and ears open because miracles do happen," Smart said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's CEO, John Ryan, said Berry, DeJesus and Knight likely would be honored by his group.

"I think they're going to be at the top of the list," he said.

___

Associated Press writers Andrew Welsh-Huggins and Jesse Washington in Cleveland, Dan Sewell in Cincinnati, John Seewer in Toledo, Mitch Stacy in Columbus and Holly Ramer in Concord, N.H., contributed to this report.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Birmingham Area NewsMore>>

  • Board members extend contract for Superintendent of Birmingham City Schools

    Board members extend contract for Superintendent of Birmingham City Schools

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 10:38 PM EDT2014-07-23 02:38:45 GMT
    Parents all over are getting their child's 'back to school' list together. Classes in Birmingham start August 14, 2014. The school board is also getting ready. Board members checked off a big item during the last board meeting.More >>
    Parents all over are getting their child's 'back to school' list together. Classes in Birmingham start August 14, 2014. The school board is also getting ready. Board members checked off a big item during the last board meeting.More >>
  • Starting process of replacing I-20/59 bridge

    Starting process of replacing I-20/59 bridge

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 8:17 PM EDT2014-07-23 00:17:49 GMT
    It's more than 42 years old and not getting in any better shape. The long and arduous process of replacing the I-20/59 bridge near the Birmingham/Jefferson Civic Center area is in the beginning stages. Starting Wednesday, July 23, at 9 a.m., the Alabama Department of Transportation will conduct geotechnical investigations for replacement of the bridge that's in disrepair. More than 160,000 vehicle travel the corridor each day. However, the bridge was only designed to carry 80,000 vehicles a d...More >>
    It's more than 42 years old and not getting in any better shape. The long and arduous process of replacing the I-20/59 bridge near the Birmingham/Jefferson Civic Center area is in the beginning stages. Starting Wednesday, July 23, at 9 a.m., the Alabama Department of Transportation will conduct geotechnical investigations for replacement of the bridge that's in disrepair. More than 160,000 vehicle travel the corridor each day. However, the bridge was only designed to carry 80,000 vehicles a d...More >>
  • California law limits full-contact football practice for youth, local coach weighs in

    California law limits full-contact football practice for youth, local coach weighs in

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 6:33 PM EDT2014-07-22 22:33:21 GMT
    Football, and the injuries associated with it, are in the national spotlight. With recent suits from former NFL players and new rules determining when it is safe to return to play after a concussion, it's at the center of attention.More >>
    Football, and the injuries associated with it, are in the national spotlight. With recent suits from former NFL players and new rules determining when it is safe to return to play after a concussion, it's at the center of attention.
    More >>
  • Anniston - Gadsden Area NewsMore>>

  • Suspect in Jacksonville shooting from June turns self in

    Suspect in Jacksonville shooting from June turns self in

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 7:06 PM EDT2014-07-22 23:06:38 GMT
    Jacksonville police said the suspect in the June shooting of a Calhoun County man turned himself into police Tuesday afternoon.More >>
    Jacksonville police said the suspect in the June shooting of a Calhoun County man turned himself into police Tuesday afternoon.
    More >>
  • Jacksonville man arrested for child pornography

    Jacksonville man arrested for child pornography

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 7:05 PM EDT2014-07-22 23:05:18 GMT
    William Franklin Harper (Photo: Calhoun County Sheriff's Office)William Franklin Harper (Photo: Calhoun County Sheriff's Office)
    The Alabama Bureau of Investigation’s CyberCrimes Unit arrested a Jacksonville man Tuesday for possession of child pornography.ABI officers served a search warrant at the home of 49-year-old William Franklin Harper. Harper is charged with four counts of possession of child pornography.He is currently in custody at theCalhoun County Jailwith bond setat $100,000 bond.During the search, investigators found methamphetamine. Agents of the Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control Board and the Calhoun Coun...More >>
    The Alabama Bureau of Investigation’s CyberCrimes Unit arrested a Jacksonville man Tuesday for possession of child pornography.ABI officers served a search warrant at the home of 49-year-old William Franklin Harper. Harper is charged with four counts of possession of child pornography.He is currently in custody at theCalhoun County Jailwith bond setat $100,000 bond.During the search, investigators found methamphetamine. Agents of the Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control Board and the Calhoun Coun...More >>
  • Heflin police: North Carolina man arrested with over 8 pounds of marijuana

    Heflin police: North Carolina man arrested with over 8 pounds of marijuana

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 2:04 PM EDT2014-07-22 18:04:33 GMT
    A North Carolina man was arrested Monday after Heflin police found over eight pounds of marijuana in his car during a traffic stop.More >>
    A North Carolina man was arrested Monday after Heflin police found over eight pounds of marijuana in his car during a traffic stop.
    More >>
  • Tuscaloosa Area NewsMore>>

  • Warrants issued to arrest Forkland mayor

    Warrants issued to arrest Forkland mayor

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 8:24 AM EDT2014-07-22 12:24:52 GMT

    Warrants allege: Theft of Property & Tampering Govt Records

    More >>

    Warrants allege: Theft of Property & Tampering Govt Records

    More >>
  • Tuscaloosa police on the look out for a murder suspect

    Tuscaloosa police on the look out for a murder suspect

    Sunday, July 20 2014 2:21 PM EDT2014-07-20 18:21:54 GMT
    At approximately1:40 am this morning Tuscaloosa Police responded to a reported shooting in the 4700 block of East McFarland Blvd (Motel 6). When officers arrived, they found the victim, 21 year old Jamarcus Marquez Roberts in his vehicle. Roberts had crashed into the shrubs at the entrance to the motel parking lot. Roberts was treated at the scene and transported to DCH-ED, however he died from his injuries. The victim appears to have been shot one time in the chest. Investigators were able t...More >>
    At approximately1:40 am this morning Tuscaloosa Police responded to a reported shooting in the 4700 block of East McFarland Blvd (Motel 6). When officers arrived, they found the victim, 21 year old Jamarcus Marquez Roberts in his vehicle. Roberts had crashed into the shrubs at the entrance to the motel parking lot. Roberts was treated at the scene and transported to DCH-ED, however he died from his injuries. The victim appears to have been shot one time in the chest. Investigators were able t...More >>
  • Tuscaloosa Police investigating a murder on East McFarland Blvd.

    Tuscaloosa Police investigating a murder on East McFarland Blvd.

    Sunday, July 20 2014 2:09 PM EDT2014-07-20 18:09:31 GMT
    Tuscaloosa Police are investigating a murder on East McFarland Blvd. at the Motel 6.  More >>
    Tuscaloosa Police are investigating a murder on East McFarland Blvd. at the Motel 6.  More >>
Most Popular
Stories
Videos
loading...
  • Latest StoriesMore>>

  • CEO: Clippers coach to quit if Sterling stays

    CEO: Clippers coach to quit if Sterling stays

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 12:03 AM EDT2014-07-23 04:03:50 GMT
    Richard Parsons, the interim CEO of the Los Angeles Clippers, is due to step into the battle of billionaires going on in probate court over the proposed sale of the Los Angeles Clippers.More >>
    The interim CEO of the Los Angeles Clippers testified Tuesday that coach Doc Rivers told him he will quit if Donald Sterling remains the owner of the team.More >>
  • Board members extend contract for Superintendent of Birmingham City Schools

    Board members extend contract for Superintendent of Birmingham City Schools

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 10:38 PM EDT2014-07-23 02:38:45 GMT
    Parents all over are getting their child's 'back to school' list together. Classes in Birmingham start August 14, 2014. The school board is also getting ready. Board members checked off a big item during the last board meeting.More >>
    Parents all over are getting their child's 'back to school' list together. Classes in Birmingham start August 14, 2014. The school board is also getting ready. Board members checked off a big item during the last board meeting.More >>
  • Kayak BBQ and Blues Festival at the gulf

    Kayak BBQ and Blues Festival at the gulf

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 9:05 PM EDT2014-07-23 01:05:11 GMT
    The 2nd Annual Kayak BBQ and Blues Festival is coming on September 6th at Perdido Key. The event will be held at Stacey's at the Point, just off Galvez Landing. Last year's event attracted over 3,500 visitors in its first year, more are expected this year.The festival will feature kayak and stand up paddleboard races, arts and crafts vendors, live music, a huge fireworks show and a BBQ cook off competition with cash prizes. This year's kayak and paddleboard races have been expanded with separ...More >>
    The 2nd Annual Kayak BBQ and Blues Festival is coming on September 6th at Perdido Key. The event will be held at Stacey's at the Point, just off Galvez Landing. Last year's event attracted over 3,500 visitors in its first year, more are expected this year.The festival will feature kayak and stand up paddleboard races, arts and crafts vendors, live music, a huge fireworks show and a BBQ cook off competition with cash prizes. This year's kayak and paddleboard races have been expanded with separ...More >>
  • Starting process of replacing I-20/59 bridge

    Starting process of replacing I-20/59 bridge

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 8:17 PM EDT2014-07-23 00:17:49 GMT
    It's more than 42 years old and not getting in any better shape. The long and arduous process of replacing the I-20/59 bridge near the Birmingham/Jefferson Civic Center area is in the beginning stages. Starting Wednesday, July 23, at 9 a.m., the Alabama Department of Transportation will conduct geotechnical investigations for replacement of the bridge that's in disrepair. More than 160,000 vehicle travel the corridor each day. However, the bridge was only designed to carry 80,000 vehicles a d...More >>
    It's more than 42 years old and not getting in any better shape. The long and arduous process of replacing the I-20/59 bridge near the Birmingham/Jefferson Civic Center area is in the beginning stages. Starting Wednesday, July 23, at 9 a.m., the Alabama Department of Transportation will conduct geotechnical investigations for replacement of the bridge that's in disrepair. More than 160,000 vehicle travel the corridor each day. However, the bridge was only designed to carry 80,000 vehicles a d...More >>
  • Suspect in Jacksonville shooting from June turns self in

    Suspect in Jacksonville shooting from June turns self in

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 7:06 PM EDT2014-07-22 23:06:38 GMT
    Jacksonville police said the suspect in the June shooting of a Calhoun County man turned himself into police Tuesday afternoon.More >>
    Jacksonville police said the suspect in the June shooting of a Calhoun County man turned himself into police Tuesday afternoon.
    More >>
  • Jacksonville man arrested for child pornography

    Jacksonville man arrested for child pornography

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 7:05 PM EDT2014-07-22 23:05:18 GMT
    William Franklin Harper (Photo: Calhoun County Sheriff's Office)William Franklin Harper (Photo: Calhoun County Sheriff's Office)
    The Alabama Bureau of Investigation’s CyberCrimes Unit arrested a Jacksonville man Tuesday for possession of child pornography.ABI officers served a search warrant at the home of 49-year-old William Franklin Harper. Harper is charged with four counts of possession of child pornography.He is currently in custody at theCalhoun County Jailwith bond setat $100,000 bond.During the search, investigators found methamphetamine. Agents of the Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control Board and the Calhoun Coun...More >>
    The Alabama Bureau of Investigation’s CyberCrimes Unit arrested a Jacksonville man Tuesday for possession of child pornography.ABI officers served a search warrant at the home of 49-year-old William Franklin Harper. Harper is charged with four counts of possession of child pornography.He is currently in custody at theCalhoun County Jailwith bond setat $100,000 bond.During the search, investigators found methamphetamine. Agents of the Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control Board and the Calhoun Coun...More >>
  • California law limits full-contact football practice for youth, local coach weighs in

    California law limits full-contact football practice for youth, local coach weighs in

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 6:33 PM EDT2014-07-22 22:33:21 GMT
    Football, and the injuries associated with it, are in the national spotlight. With recent suits from former NFL players and new rules determining when it is safe to return to play after a concussion, it's at the center of attention.More >>
    Football, and the injuries associated with it, are in the national spotlight. With recent suits from former NFL players and new rules determining when it is safe to return to play after a concussion, it's at the center of attention.
    More >>
  • UAB gets commitment from JUCO receiver/returner

    UAB gets commitment from JUCO receiver/returner

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 6:17 PM EDT2014-07-22 22:17:31 GMT
    Alex Byers is set to return to his southeast roots. The junior college wide receiver and return man committed to UAB. He's the ninth member of the Blazers 2015 recruiting class.More >>
    Alex Byers is set to return to his southeast roots. The junior college wide receiver and return man committed to UAB. He's the ninth member of the Blazers 2015 recruiting class.More >>