CLEVELAND, (Reuters) – As three Cleveland women reunited with their families yesterday after vanishing for about a decade in their own neighbourhood, police scoured the house they escaped from for clues on how they could be held captive for so long with no one noticing.
Cleveland authorities said there was one attempt to visit the home in 2004 on an unrelated matter but no one answered the door. They said they combed through records and found no other calls to the house nor reports of anything amiss in the years the women were missing.
But neighbours said they had made more than one call to police about suspicious activity at the house.
Amanda Berry, 27, who disappeared in April 2003, along with Gina DeJesus, 23, who vanished in 2004, and Michelle Knight, 32, who went missing in 2002, were held captive at the house.
Rescued with them on Monday was a 6-year-old girl who police said was Berry’s daughter. She would have been conceived and born during Berry’s captivity.
Israel Lugo, a neighbour, 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 after no one answered.
Lugo said about eight months ago, his sister saw Ariel Castro, who owns the house, park his school bus outside the house and take a large bag of fast food and several drinks inside.
“My sister said something’s wrong … That’s when my mom called the police,” he said. Lugo said police came and warned Castro not to park the bus in front of his house. Cleveland police, who had brothers Ariel Castro, 52, Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50 arrested as suspects in the case, did not immediately respond to repeated requests seeking comment about the reported calls.
At a news conference yesterday, Mayor Frank Jackson said: “We have no indication that any of the neighbours, bystanders, witnesses or anyone else has ever called regarding any information, regarding activity that occurred at that house on Seymour Avenue.”
Monday evening’s rescue, described as a “miracle” by one family member, unfolded with a frantic emergency call from a woman who told a 911 operator she was Amanda Berry, the subject of years of searches.