Cleveland kidnap victims arrive at family homes

Updated: 2013-05-09 09:52


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CLEVELAND  - Two newly freed Cleveland women had family homecomings on Wednesday after a decade of captivity in a house where police said chains and ropes had been used to hold them prisoner.

Neither Amanda Berry nor Gina DeJesus spoke publicly as they were hustled past crowds of spectators and media.

Cleveland kidnap victims arrive at family homes

Gina DeJesus arrives at her home in Cleveland, Ohio, May 8, 2013. DeJesus, Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Berry's 6-year-old daughter escaped a Cleveland home where they were held captive. DeJesus, now 23, vanished aged 14 in 2004. [Photo/Agencies]

Berry, 27, and her 6-year-old daughter, who was conceived and born in captivity, could be seen from an aerial television camera arriving in a convoy of vehicles at her sister's house and going in the back door.

DeJesus, 23, was rushed into the home she had not seen in nine years, clenched in a tight embrace by her sister Mayra. DeJesus hid her face in a yellow hoodie but raised her hand in a thumbs-up sign to the crowd that was chanting "Gina. Gina."

"There are not enough words to say or express the joy that we feel for the return of our family member Gina, and now Amanda Berry, her daughter and Michelle Knight who is our family also," DeJesus' aunt Sandra Ruiz said outside the house.

"I want to say thank you, but I'm also going to put my foot down as the mean one of the family," she said. "We are asking for your support to be patient with us. Give us time and privacy to heal. When we're ready, I promise every single one of you guys that we'll talk to you."

Police released some details about the search of the house where the women had been held, including the discovery of chains and ropes police said had been used to tie up the victims. Police said no human remains had been found.

Three brothers identified by police as suspects were expected to be charged by the end of the day, police said.

One suspect, Ariel Castro, 52, who was fired from his school bus driving job in November for "lack of judgment," was arrested almost immediately after the women escaped on Monday.

His brothers Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50, were taken into custody a short time later. Police have not said what role each man is suspected of playing, but Berry named Ariel Castro in an emergency call to 911 on Monday as the man from whom she was trying to escape.

Before Monday evening, Berry had last been seen leaving her job at a fast-food restaurant the day before her 17th birthday in April 2003. Her disappearance as a teenager was widely publicized in the local media.

Her sister's two-story bungalow was festooned with dozens of colorful balloons, yellow ribbons and a huge sign reading "Welcome Home Amanda."

It is in an ethnically mixed, working-class neighborhood about six miles from the house where Berry broke through a door with the assistance of a neighbor who heard her screaming and helped her call police.

Appearing on the lawn of the house, Berry's sister, Beth Serrano, was greeted with shouts and cheers from a crowd of well-wishers who had gathered along with photographers, television crews and reporters.

"At this time, our family would request privacy so my sister and niece and I can have time to recover," Serrano said, her voice quaking and appearing to choke back tears. "We appreciate all you have done for us for the past ten years. Please respect our privacy until we are ready to make our statement. And thank you."

Berry was found with DeJesus, 23, who vanished while walking home from school at age 14 in 2004, and Michelle Knight, 32, who was 20 when she disappeared in 2002.

Berry told her grandmother in a telephone call played on local television that her daughter was born on Christmas Day.

DeJesus's home, also in a working-class neighborhood, was decorated with flowers, balloons, welcoming signs and an array of stuffed animals.

Her father Felix DeJesus pumped his fist in the air as his daughter went inside. The DeJesus house is about three miles from the Castro house.

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