CLEVELAND - Authorities in Cleveland say the nightmare for Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight is over and prayers have been answered.
At a Tuesday morning news conference, authorities gave more detailed information about the case, their investigation and the women. Still, many more questions remain.
"We're happy that they have returned to us, but their absence for several years has plagued their families, Cleveland police and so many others," said Mayor Frank Jackson. "We have several unanswered questions: why and how they were taken and why they remained undetected in Cleveland this period of time."
A source told reporter Paul Kiska that chains and bondage were found in basement of the Seymour Avenue home where Knight, Berry and DeJesus were held captive and that the victims were, at times, tied up with chains and tape. But authorities could not confirm if the women were forced into sex slavery.
The question arose after Berry was seen carrying a young girl, who authorities believe to be her daughter, when rescued from the house of horrors early Monday night by a neighbor. Police said only the women will be able to tell them what has happened inside that house for the past 10 years. They could not confirm how the baby would have been born.
Castro brothers arrested, named
Cleveland police also released the names of the three Castro brothers arrested in connection to the abduction as Ariel, Pedro and Onil. All three are awaiting charges and are in their early 50s.
According to Cleveland's safety director, there were no building or housing violations at the Seymour Avenue house and EMS was never called to the address. However, records show Cleveland police responded twice to home in 2000 and 2004.
Cleveland chief deputy Ed Tomba said Ariel Castro was interviewed extensively in 2004 regarding an incident when he was a school bus driver. Tomba said Castro either unintentionally or inadvertently left a young boy on his bus. The incident was ruled accidental.
That spawned the question if Castro used his position as a school bus driver to gain access to the then young girls. Tomba said the answer remains unknown.
"Every single lead was followed up on, no matter how small. We dug up yards, we canvassed neighborhoods and we participated in vigils. The real hero here is Amanda," Tomba said.
A neighbor told reporter Kristin Volk that they never saw Ariel Castro come out of the front door of the Seymour Avenue home and that he always used the back door.
An uncle of DeJesus told our reporter Kristin Byrne that he's "angry" because he knew Ariel Castro. Details of their relationship are not known.
Police said they will search other properties owned by Castro.
The nightmare is over
Cleveland FBI special agent in charge Stephen Anthony said for the women's families, prayers have been answered. The nightmare is over.
"These ladies are the ultimate definition of perseverance and hope. Everyone kept the faith believing one day, they'd see their daughters, nieces, sisters alive again."
Anthony said every resource will be used to investigate the case and bring full justice.
"In the coming days and weeks, we will track events over the past several years. Much of the effort will focus on (the women): how can we in law enforcement help speed healing and the recovery process and treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve…their families too, with comfort, advice and information to help with this process," said Anthony.
"What these young girls went through, and if you saw them (Monday) night, you'd have nothing but compassion and love in your heart," Tomba said.
If you have information about a missing person, you can anonymously call the FBI at (216) 522-1400.
Timeline of finding abducted women
Cleveland Public Safety Director Martin Flask said the first call came in from a neighbor at 5:52 p.m. Monday. The next 911 call for help came from Amanda Berry seconds later. Flask said officers were at the Seymour Avenue scene two minutes after the calls for help and in less than five minutes, officers were able to identify DeJesus and Berry. One minute after that, they found Michelle Knight.
"To find these three girls recovered well, gives us a boost," said police chief Mike McGrath.
Michelle Knight was the first woman reported missing, last seen Aug. 22, 2002. Amanda Berry went missing months later on April 21, 2003 and Gina DeJesus was taken on April 2, 2004.
The least is known about Knight's disappearance. As McGrath said, her age, 20 years old when she disappeared, may have been the reason for fewer tips. She was abducted from West 106th Street and Lorain Avenue. A missing person report was made the following day by a family member, authorities said.
"Due to Amanda's brave actions, these three women are alive today," said McGrath.
Now the women and their families can begin to heal.
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