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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs