CLEVELAND: Three women who went missing separately about a decade ago, when they were in their teens or early 20s, had been tied up but were found alive Monday in a residential area just south of downtown, and three brothers were arrested, police said.
One of the women told a 911 dispatcher the person who had taken her was gone, and she pleaded for police officers to come and get her, saying, “I’m free now.”
Cheering crowds gathered Monday night on the street near the home where police said Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight had been held since they went missing and were found earlier in the day.
Police didn’t immediately provide any details of how the women were found but said they appeared to be in good health and had been taken to a hospital to be reunited with relatives and to be evaluated. They said a 6-year-old also was found in the home.
On a recorded 911 call Monday, Berry declared, “I’m Amanda Berry. I’ve been on the news for the last 10 years.”
She said she had been taken by someone and begged for police officers to arrive at the home on Cleveland’s west side before he returned.
“I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years,” she told the dispatcher. “And I’m here. I’m free now.”
Berry disappeared at age 16 on April 21, 2003, when she called her sister to say she was getting a ride home from her job at a Burger King. DeJesus went missing at age 14 on her way home from school about a year later. They were found just a few miles from where they had gone missing.
Police said Knight went missing in 2002 and is 32 now. They didn’t provide current ages for the other two women.
Police said one of the brothers, a 52-year-old, lived at the home. They released no names and gave no details about the others arrested or what charges they might face.
Dozens of police officers and sheriff’s deputies remained at the scene late Monday awaiting a warrant to search the building where the women and the child were found.
Charles Ramsey told WKYC-TV he’d just gotten home from McDonald’s when he started to hear screaming inside the home next door, and he and another neighbor ran to help.
“This girl’s kicking the door and screaming, and so I go over there with my Big Mac, and I say, ‘Well, can I help you, what’s going on?’ And she says, ‘I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been in this house a long time. I want to leave right now!’ ”
The door wouldn’t open, so the men began kicking the bottom of it to allow the woman to get out, Ramsey said. She identified herself as Berry.
“I thought she was the only one,” Ramsey told WKYC-TV. “She grabbed some little girl ... and said, ‘This is his daughter’ ” — an apparent reference to the man living in the home.
He said emergency officials didn’t at first believe that they’d discovered Berry, and when they arrived, a more dramatic story unfolded.
“That girl, Amanda, told the police, ‘I ain’t the only one in there,’ ” Ramsey told WEWS-TV.
Police went into the house and discovered the other women.
Neighbors told reporters they had no idea women lived in the house and had never seen them outside. The owner blacked out his windows and entered his home through the back door, Jannette Gomez, 50, told the Plain Dealer.
The women were taken to a hospital, where a doctor said they were in “fair condition.”
“This isn’t the ending we usually hear to these stories, so we’re very happy,” said Dr. Gerald Maloney of the Metro Health Medical Center in Cleveland. Maloney said the women could communicate but wouldn’t go into further details.
Police said they would hold a news conference about the case today at 9:30 a.m.
Berry’s mother, Louwana Miller, died in March 2006 after being hospitalized for months with pancreatitis and other illnesses. Friends said the search for her daughter had taken a toll on her health.
Loved ones said they hadn’t given up hope of seeing the women again.
“I’ve been praying, never forgot about her, ever,” Kayla Rogers, a childhood friend of DeJesus, told the Plain Dealer. “This is amazing. This is a celebration. I’m so happy. I just want to see her walk out of those doors so I can hug her.”
The Associated Press and Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.