Thu, May 09, 2013 - Page 7 News List

Cleveland police seek clues to women’s abductions

AFP, CLEVELAND, Ohio

The family house of Gina DeJesus, one of three women held captive for about a decade, is decorated by well-wishers on Tuesday in Cleveland, Ohio.

Photo: AFP

Police planned to question three brothers yesterday over the disappearance of three young women who were found alive in a quiet home in the US state of Ohio after about a decade of captivity.

Neighbors have expressed shock that the young women — long feared dead — could have been held for so many years in an unassuming home belonging to a man who never raised any suspicions in the working-class neighborhood.

Three brothers have been arrested in Cleveland after one of the captives managed to alert a neighbor, who broke down the door to free her and the six-year-old daughter she apparently bore as a prisoner.

Police responding to a desperate 911 emergency call found two more women in the modest detached home with US and Puerto Rican flags on the porch. The three women had gone missing in separate incidents about 10 years ago.

Police, reporters and local residents have descended on Seymour Avenue, where officers sealed off the property with barriers and crime scene tape.

The women — Amanda Berry, 27, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32 — were freed on Monday night and examined at a hospital before being released to their families, who staged joyous homecoming parties.

Cleveland police spokeswoman Jennifer Ciaccia told CNN that officers planned to interview the suspects yesterday and that they should be brought before a judge to face charges later in the day.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg. This investigation will take a very long time,” she said, refusing to comment on reports that the women had been chained up in the house, beaten and had lost multiple pregnancies.

Berry’s grandmother Fern Gentry spoke to the once-missing teen by telephone from Tennessee in a call broadcast by a local ABC News affiliate.

“I’m glad to have you back,” Gentry said.

“I’m glad to be back,” Berry said, in the first publicly released recording of her voice since the panicked 911 call after her escape.

“I thought you were gone,” the grandmother said.

“Nope, I’m here,” Berry said.

Police confirmed that Berry has a six-year-old daughter, Jocelyn, apparently born while she was in captivity. A picture was released showing Berry smiling with her sister and daughter at the hospital.

“She looks great — happy, healthy and ate a popsicle last night,” Cleveland Police Deputy Chief Ed Tomba said about the little girl.

“Seeing her mother made her smile,” he said, according to ABC News.

The three Ohio women were abducted separately in 2002, 2003 and 2004, but were found together in the home of 52-year-old Ariel Castro, who has been detained along with his brothers, Pedro, 54, and Onil, 50.

Cleveland Director of Public Safety Martin Flask said police had not been alerted to anything untoward happening at the house on Seymour Avenue.

“Obviously, there was a long period of time where nobody saw them. So we have to wait until we interview them and hopefully they are going to tell us exactly what went on in there,” Tomba said.

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