News / USA

    Questions Mount on How Ohio Women's Captivity Went Undetected

    Amanda Berry, right, hugs her sister Beth Serrano after being reunited in a Cleveland hospital Monday May 6, 2013.
    Amanda Berry, right, hugs her sister Beth Serrano after being reunited in a Cleveland hospital Monday May 6, 2013.
    Reuters
    Euphoria over the rescue of three Ohio women from a decade-long kidnapping ordeal gave way to questions of how their captivity inside a house on a residential street in Cleveland went undetected for so long.

    The women, freed when a neighbor was alerted to their presence by screams for help, huddled privately with family under FBI protection on Tuesday as investigators combed through the house, seeking evidence against the accused captors.

    Combination photo created from May 7, 2013 booking photos provided by the Cleveland Police Department show brothers Ariel (L-R), Onil and Pedro Castro.Combination photo created from May 7, 2013 booking photos provided by the Cleveland Police Department show brothers Ariel (L-R), Onil and Pedro Castro.
    x
    Combination photo created from May 7, 2013 booking photos provided by the Cleveland Police Department show brothers Ariel (L-R), Onil and Pedro Castro.
    Combination photo created from May 7, 2013 booking photos provided by the Cleveland Police Department show brothers Ariel (L-R), Onil and Pedro Castro.
    Three brothers were arrested as suspects Monday evening just after the women escaped and are expected to be formally charged soon. One of them, Ariel Castro, a former school bus driver and the owner of the house, was thought to have lived there alone.

    Mayor Frank Johnson confirmed on Tuesday that child welfare officials had paid a visit to the house in early 2004 because Castro was reported to have left a child on a school bus while he stopped for lunch at a fast-food restaurant. But the ensuing inquiry found no criminal intent, officials said.

    Contrary to unconfirmed accounts of several neighbors, the mayor denied that authorities had overlooked or failed to respond to suspicious activity at the modest, two-story home.

    The women's imprisonment came to a dramatic end after a neighbor, drawn by the sound of screams, broke through the door to rescue Amanda Berry, whose 2003 disappearance as a teenager was widely publicized in the local media. He helped her place an emergency call to authorities

    "Help me! I'm Amanda Berry. ... I've been kidnapped and I've been missing for 10 years and I'm here. I'm free now,'' a frantic Berry can be heard saying in a recording of the call released by police.

    Video interview with Charles Ramsey, neighbor who found Amanda Berry



    Berry, now 27, was found with her 6-year-old daughter, conceived and born during her captivity, and two other women - Gina DeJesus, 23, who vanished at age 14 in 2004, and Michelle Knight, 32, who was 20 when she went missing in 2002.

    Ariel Castro, 52, fired from his bus job last November after school officials cited him for a "lack of judgment,'' was arrested almost immediately. Two brothers, Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50, were taken into custody a short time later.

    Neighbors report suspicious incidents

    Police have not said what role each man is suspected of playing in the case, but Berry named Ariel Castro in her 911 call as the man from whom she was trying to escape.

    Questions have mounted about why the women's captivity escaped notice, despite what neighbors said were a number of suspicious or disturbing incidents at the house in the low-income community on Cleveland's West Side.

     "We didn't search hard enough. She was right under our nose the whole time,'' said Angel Arroyo, a church pastor who had handed out flyers of DeJesus in the neighborhood.

    Aside from the school bus incident in 2004, city officials said a database search found no records of calls to the house or reports of anything amiss during the years in question.

     "We have no indication that any of the neighbors, bystanders, witnesses or anyone else has ever called regarding any information, regarding activity that occurred at that house on Seymour Avenue,'' Mayor Johnson told reporters on Tuesday.

    Israel Lugo, a neighbor, said he called police in November 2011 after his sister saw a girl at the house holding a baby and crying for help. He said police came and banged on the door several times but left when no one answered.

    More recently, about eight months ago, Lugo said, his sister saw Ariel Castro park his school bus outside and take a large bag of fast food and several drinks inside.

    Another neighbor, Anthony Westry, said a little girl could often be seen peering from the attic window of the Castro house.

    "She was always looking out the window,'' he said. Castro would take her to the park to play very early in the morning, `"not around the time you would take kids to play,'' he said.

    Cleveland police, who have said they believe Berry, DeJesus and Knight were confined to the Castro house for their entire time missing, did not immediately respond to repeated requests for comment about reported calls from neighbors.

    Media onslaught

    In the one acknowledged visit to the house by Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services Department officers in January 2004, more than a year after Knight disappeared and eight months after Berry went missing, no one answered the door, the mayor said.

    Police said Castro was interviewed extensively during the investigation regarding the child left on the bus, and that no criminal wrongdoing was found. A witness had reported Castro telling the child to "lay down, bitch,'' but child welfare officials concluded the complaint was unsubstantiated.

    After their rescue, the three women were taken to a local hospital, reunited with family and friends and released. Cleveland FBI special agent Vicki Anderson told Reuters that federal agents were "taking care of the victims'' to help shield them from a global media onslaught.

    DeJesus' aunt Sandra Ruiz emerged from the home of DeJesus' father on Tuesday to appeal to a throng of reporters to respect the family's privacy, saying: "Give us some breathing room.''

    Born in Puerto Rico, Ariel Castro played bass in Latin music bands in the area. Records show he was divorced more than a decade ago and his ex-wife had since died. He is known to have at least one adult daughter and son.

    On a Facebook page believed to be his, Castro said last month that he had just become a grandfather for a fifth time. Court records show he was arrested in 1993 on a domestic violence charge that was subsequently dismissed. 

    • Ariel Castro, who is charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape, appears in Cleveland Municipal Court, May 9, 2013.
    • Nancy Ruiz, mother of Gina DeJesus, speaks to the media after bringing her daughter home in Cleveland, Ohio, May 8, 2013.
    • Pastor Larry Harris leads a prayer vigil near the home where three women were held captive for a decade, in Cleveland, Ohio, May 8, 2013.
    • A sheriff deputy stands outside a house where three women escaped after going missing a decade ago, Cleveland, Ohio, May 7, 2013.
    • Amber Berry hugs her sister Beth Serrano after being reunited in a Cleveland hospital Monday May 6, 2013. (Family Handout courtesy WOIO-TV)
    • Members of the FBI evidence team remove items from a house where three missing women were found, Cleveland, Ohio, May 6, 2013.
    • Police and FBI congregate outside a house where three missing women were found, Cleveland, Ohio, May 6, 2013.

    You May Like

    Ethiopia's Anti-terrorism Law: Security or Silencing Dissent?

    Yonatan Tesfaye was detained in December 2015 on charges under Ethiopia's Anti-Terrorism Proclamation; eleven statements from his Facebook page were used as evidence

    Egypt Orders Trial for Journalists Charged With Harboring Reporters

    Order targets journalists' union chief Yehia Qalash, Khaled al-Balshy and Gamal Abdel Rahim for allegedly spreading false news, harboring fugitive colleagues

    Nigerian Oil Production Falls as Militant Attacks Take Toll

    Country no longer Africa's petroleum king due to renewed militancy in its oil-producing region

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahdai
    X
    Lisa Schlein
    May 31, 2016 1:56 PM
    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahda

    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Mobile App Allows Dutch Muslims to Rate their Imams

    If a young Dutch-Moroccan app developer has his way, Muslims in the Netherlands will soon be able to rate their imams online. Mohamed Mouman says imams rarely get feedback from their followers. He believes his app can give prayer leaders a better picture of what's happening in their communities — and can also keep young people from being radicalized. Serginho Roosblad reports from Amsterdam.
    Video

    Video Moscow Condemns NATO Plans to Beef Up Defense in Eastern Europe, Baltics

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday an upcoming "landmark summit" will enhance the alliance's defensive and deterrent presence in eastern Europe and the Baltics. He is visiting Poland ahead of the NATO Summit in Warsaw. Zlatica Hoke reports
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video F-35 Fighter Jet Draws Criticisms as Costs Mount

    America’s latest fighter plane, the F-35, has been mired in controversy. Critics cite cost, faulty design, and the attempt to use it to fill multiple roles. Even the pilot’s helmet is controversial. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Concerns Over Civilian Suffering as Iraqi Forces Surround Fallujah

    Thousands of residents are trapped inside the IS-held city ahead of a full scale Iraqi offensive aimed at retaking it.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora