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Crime and Courts


Cleveland police ask for patience in the abduction investigation
But police, residents agree on one thing: The women's emotional state is top priority
by WKSU's M.L. SCHULTZE
and AMY COOKNICK


Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
 
Mug shots of Ariel, Pedro and Onil Castro, arrested in the case of three women abducted a decade ago, found in a house within a few miles of their homes.
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In The Region:

Residents of a largely Hispanic neighborhood on Cleveland’s west side have spent much of the last 36 hours  trying to figure out how three women -- abducted a decade ago -- could have been living literally next door  without them knowing about it.

Police blocked off much of Seymour Avenue as FBI agents searched a simple frame house – and crowds of spectators and reporters

were kept at bay. The crowds had been building since shortly after 6 p.m. Monday, when one of the women, Amanda Berry, broke through a front screen door and called for help. Neighbors helped her and a 6-year-old child escape, then police freed Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight . All three women had been abducted when they were in their teens and early 20s.

Clevelander David McCraw says, though he felt joy at their release, he knows they’ve been traumatized and he hopes:

 “In due time that they’ll be able to get their mental stability back together, that they’ll be able to trust people, be able to live in society without living in fear. That’s the main thing right now, that get the time to get themselves together first.”


Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath said that is his concern, too, and asked the press to be patient.

"The sensitivity of the victims, their emotional wellbeing. And that’s what we’re going to do first. After we get that stabilized, then we’ll move forward with the debriefing process. So we need you’re cooperation on some of the questions because some of the questions may impact their emotions. So you’re going to need to be patient with us over the next couple days.”

Or, McGrath added, weeks, perhaps even a month.

Police have arrested three brothers in their 50s: Ariel, Pedro and Onil Castro.

Residents say they knew Ariel, the owner of the home on Seymour Avenue, and found him increasingly isolated, but not particularly suspicious.

 

Here’s the timeline of the case of three Cleveland women who vanished from their near west-side neighborhood a decade ago and were found Monday in a home some two miles away.

•             Aug. 23, 2002: Michelle Knight disappears from her cousin’s house near W. 106th Street and Lorain Avenue.  She’s legally an adult, and police speculate that she left because she’d lost temporary custody of her son. Her mother never believed that.

•             April 21, 2003: 16-year-old Amanda Berry never returns from work at a Burger King on Lorain and West 110th Street. Her mother, Louwana Miller, begins a search for her daughter that ends only when the 44-year-old Louwana dies in 2006.

•             January 2004: Ariel Castro is a school bus driver. Police go to his home at 2207 Seymour Ave. after Child and Family Services tells them he had left a child unattended on a bus. Police decide there was no criminal intent.

•             April 2, 2004: Georgina "Gina" DeJesus, 14, disappears while walking home from Wilbur Wright Middle School where she attended special education classes. She’s last seen at the corner of Lorain Avenue and 105th Street.

•             2005: Police and FBI agents continue the investigation, offering a $20,000 reward for details that lead to discovery of DeJesus or Berry.

•             April 2009: The FBI broadens its investigation to include another girl, 14-year-old Ashley Summers, who had disappeared in 2007.  She later contacts her family.

Police also test the DNA on a body found in Wisconsin.

•             January 2013: Convicted killer and inmate Robert Wolford is sentenced to 4 ½ years on of obstruction of justice and other charges. He gave police a false tip that said Berry’s body was buried on a vacant lot in Cleveland. Police spent 18 hours searching the lot.

•             May 6, 2013: Berry breaks through a screen door of the house on Seymour with the help of neighbors and escapes with a 6-year-old girl she identifies on the 9-1-1 call as her daughter. Police respond and find Knight and  DeJesus inside.

•             Three brothers, Ariel Castro, Pedro Castro and Onil Castro, are arrested and police are preparing charges and expecting the case to go to the Cuyahoga County grand jury.

•             May 7, 2013: The women, Berry, now 27; DeJesus, now 23, and Michelle Knight, believed to be 32, are released from MetroHealth Medical Center.  

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