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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

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.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid