CLEVELAND — A girl found in the house where three women were held after they were separately abducted about a decade ago is believed to be the daughter of the one of the victims, police said on Tuesday.
The child, described as about 6 years old, is believed to be the daughter of Amanda Berry, the woman whose frantic call to police Monday led to the rescue of three women held for years in a house in Cleveland. Three brothers have been arrested in the case and will be charged, officials said.
The girl was among those who lived at the house, Cleveland Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba said at the televised news conference. He declined to answer any questions about who the father is.
“The real hero here is Amanda,” said Tomba, who described how Berry called authorities and helped lead her fellow captives, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, out of the house, ending an ordeal that lasted about a decade.
“Our prayers have been answered,” Stephen D. Anthony, FBI special agent in charge of the Cleveland office, told reporters. “The nightmare is over.”
Officials said they will continue their investigation, soliciting tips from the community near downtown Cleveland where the women were held. Interviews with the victims still have to be conducted before the case is sent to the grand jury and the brothers are formally charged.
The brothers were identified as: Ariel Castro, 52, a former school bus driver; Pedro Castro, 54; and Onil Castro, 50. They were arrested at a McDonald’s restaurant, police said.
The three women and the child appeared in good health, officials said. All were cared for Monday night at the emergency facilities at MetroHealth Medical Center and were released Tuesday morning to be reunited with their relatives.
Officials said they never gave up on the case, which sparked vigils and citywide search efforts.
Berry was 16 when she vanished on April 21, 2003, when she called her sister to say she was getting a ride home from her job at a Burger King fast food restaurant.
Police said Knight, now 32, disappeared in 2002 at the age of 20. About a year later, DeJesus vanished at age 14 on her way home from school.
They were all found in a house at 2207 Seymour Ave., just miles from where it is believed they were abducted. The house, in a predominantly Latino neighborhood, is owned by Ariel Castro, officials said. Police said they believe the women were tied up in the house and kept there since they were abducted.
Neighbor Juan Perez told NBC’s “Today” show that he rarely saw Castro or anyone else at the building.
“I thought the home was vacant. I thought he probably had another property and he would just come and check and see if everything is OK.” Perez said. “I didn’t even know anybody lived there.”
“We have many, many questions,” Holden told reporters. “This is a horrific, horrific case. You have many questions and so do we.”
A neighbor, Charles Ramsey, told WEWS-TV he heard screaming Monday and saw Berry, whom he didn’t recognize, at a door that would open only enough to fit a hand through. He said she was trying desperately to get outside and pleaded for help to reach police.
“I heard screaming,” he said. “I’m eating my McDonald’s. I come outside. I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of a house.”
Police on Tuesday said that Berry had broken through the screen door. She then led her fellow captives out of the house.
Berry then called police, setting off the sequence of events that led to a city exulting in what authorities said was the end of one of Cleveland’s worst crimes.
“Help me. I’m Amanda Berry,’ the quivering voice told police operators.
“You need police, fire, ambulance?” the dispatcher asks.
“I need police,” the woman responds.
“OK, and what’s going on there?”
“I’ve been kidnapped and I’ve been missing for 10 years, and I’m, I’m here, I’m free now,” the woman says.
Semuels reported from Cleveland and Muskal from Los Angeles.