Families Celebrate Return Of 3 Women Missing For Years
The sign outside a Cleveland home reads, "Welcome Home Gina."
It's the home of the parents of Gina DeJesus, one of the three women who'd been missing for about a decade and were found Thursday in a home in downtown Cleveland. Police say they'd apparently been held captive in the house since they disappeared.
Three brothers, including the owner of the home, are under arrest.
Police say the 6-year-old girl who was also found in the home is believed to be the daughter of Amanda Berry, one of the three women who had been missing.
An aunt of Gina DeJesus says the women all showed great strength to survive in the years since they disappeared. Sandra Ruiz spoke after visiting with all three women.
“All three girls, God works in mysterious ways. You would never; I mean it's just unbelievable. Unbelievable. These girls, these women are so strong. Stronger than I am. I will tell you that much. And they all have a positive attitude. And this is what we need from everyone. We need to still be a family. Neighborhood with neighborhood. We need to watch out for all kids. Really! Watch who your neighbor is because you never know,” said Sandra Ruiz.
They've been released from a hospital, and taken to an undisclosed location in the Cleveland suburbs.
Meanwhile, there are reports that police may have missed some earlier opportunities to find the three missing women.
Neighbors of the house where the women were found say police were called twice in recent years to investigate suspicious activity there. One man says he heard pounding on doors at the house.
Another neighbor says her daughter once saw a naked woman crawling on her hands and knees in the backyard.
Juan Perez said he lived two doors down from the kidnapping suspect, Ariel Castro.
He said he can’t believe he didn’t see or hear anything to indicate there was danger next door.
“No red flags, even now, looking back, he loved kids,” Perez said.
He said there were signs that he said made the discovery make much more sense.
“Three years ago, we heard a loud scream. We made a police report, but we didn’t know where it came from,” he said.
Israel Lugo said he remembered things, too.
He said his sister saw a woman in an upstairs window with a small child.
“It looked like a lady with a baby, pounding like she’s a hostage,” Lugo said. “I’m like, “Ariel, whose kid is that?’ ‘It’s my girlfriend’s daughter.’”
Police said they learned that the little girl was Amanda Berry’s 6-year-old daughter. The girl, her mother and two other women were found safe.
Three women who disappeared in Cleveland a decade ago were found safe Monday, and police arrested three brothers accused of holding the victims against their will. A timeline of key events in the case:
- Aug. 23, 2002: Michelle Knight, 20, vanishes. She was last seen at a cousin's house near Lorain Avenue and West 106th Street.
- April 21, 2003: Amanda Berry, 16, disappears after leaving her job at a Burger King at the corner of Lorain Avenue and West 110th Street, a few blocks from her home.
- January 2004: Police go to Ariel Castro's home at 2207 Seymour Ave., about 3 miles from where Knight and Berry were last seen. No one answers the door. Child welfare officials had alerted police that Castro, a school bus driver, apparently left a child unattended on a bus. Police later spoke to Castro and determined there was no criminal intent.
- April 2, 2004: Georgina "Gina" DeJesus, 14, disappears while walking home from school. She was last seen at a telephone booth at the corner of Lorain Avenue and 105th Street.
- November 2004: Psychic Sylvia Browne tells Berry's mother, Louwana Miller, on "The Montel Williams Show" that her daughter is dead.
- March 2, 2006: Miller, 43, dies after being hospitalized with pancreatitis and other ailments. She had spent the previous three years looking for her daughter.
- November 2011: A neighbor, Israel Lugo, said he heard pounding on some of the doors of Castro's house, which had plastic bags on the windows. Lugo said officers knocked on the front door, but no one answered. Officers walked around outside the house and left, Lugo said.
- April 2, 2013: Family and friends of DeJesus gather for a vigil on the corner where she was last seen on the ninth anniversary of her disappearance.
- May 6, 2013: Knight, Berry, DeJesus and a 6-year-old girl believed to be Berry's daughter are found at Castro's home. Police arrest three brothers, Ariel Castro, Pedro Castro and Onil Castro, in connection with the women's disappearances.