Kidnapped women rescued in Cleveland after a decade of captivity

Wonder and gratitude mix with horror as we learn three women kidnapped over the course of a decade have been rescued alive from the basement of their captor’s home, after one of them escaped and used a neighbor’s phone to call the police.  She identified herself to the police dispatcher as Amanda Berry, now 27 years old according to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.  Fox News adds that she was abducted when she was just 16, after calling her sister and telling her she was getting a ride home after working a shift at the local Burger King.

Also rescued from the basement of the house were Gina DeJesus, 27, kidnapped nine years ago, and Michelle Knight, 30, who has been missing for 11 years.  They are said to be in fair condition, suffering from dehydration and malnourishment.  The UK Daily Mail reports all three victims were “kidnapped on the same street, three miles from where they were found.”

“Police say a 6-year-old was also found in the home, but the child’s identity or relationship to anyone in the home wasn’t revealed,” Fox News adds ominously.  The Daily Mail claims Amanda Berry’s parents have identified the child as “her daughter that she gave birth to while being held against her will.”

The owner of the house, 52-year-old Ariel Castro, and his two brothers are under arrest.  One of the most chilling aspects of the crime is how well Castro seems to have been integrated with the community.  Neighbors speak of attending barbecues with him, and riding four-wheelers together.  He apparently worked as a school bus driver, although the school district has not yet released details of his employment.  His uncle, who claims to have been completely unaware of his nefarious activities, says that Castro played bass in bands that performed at a club owned by Gina DeJesus’ uncle, so he evidently knew the family.  And all the while, three women were held prisoner in his basement for years on end.

Also evidently unaware of Ariel Castro’s crimes: his son, also named Ariel, who wrote an article in 2004 about how the disappearance of Gina DeJesus had rocked the community.  He was a student at Bowling Green State University at the time.

As one neighbor put it, “This is our own backyard.  These girls were locked up in our own backyard.”

Tragically, Amanda’s mother Louwana died in 2006, after being assured by a TV psychic that her daughter was dead.  From the Daily Mail:

Amanda’s mother, Louwana Miller, who had been hospitalized for months with pancreatitis and other ailments, died in March 2006.

She had spent the previous three years looking for her daughter, whose disappearance took a toll as her health steadily deteriorated, family and friends said.

In November 2004, she even turned to a psychic, Sylvia Browne, on Montel Williams’ television show.

‘She’s not alive, honey,’ Browne told her. ‘Your daughter’s not the kind who wouldn’t call.’

But Councilwoman Dona Brady said she had spent many hours with Miller, who never gave up hope that her daughter was alive.

‘She literally died of a broken heart,’ Brady said.

Other family members of the missing women also kept hope alive, holding prayer vigils and refusing to give them up for dead, or believe they had voluntarily run away from home.  Ironically, the last post on the kidnapper’s Facebook page was “Miracles really do happen.  God is good,” followed by a smiley face.

Update: Good news – all three of the rescued women have been released from the hospital.

Update: The Daily Mail now says “at least five babies were born at the house, while one of the victims suffered as many as three miscarriages because she was so malnourished.”  The captives were reportedly beaten by Castro and his brothers when they were pregnant, causing miscarriages.  The fate of the other children born at the house is not yet known.


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