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

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens 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.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs