Police facing questions in 3 women's Ohio rescue

6:25 AM, May 8, 2013   |    comments
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CLEVELAND (CBSNews.com) - One neighbor says a naked woman was seen crawling on her hands and knees in the backyard of the house a few years ago. Another heard pounding on the home's doors and noticed plastic bags over the windows.

Both times, police showed up but never went inside, neighbors say. Police also paid a brief visit to the house in 2004.

Now, after three women who vanished a decade ago were found captive Monday at the peeling, rundown house, Cleveland police are facing questions for the second time in four years about their handling of missing-person cases and are conducting an internal review to see if they overlooked anything.

City Safety Director Martin Flask said Tuesday that investigators had no record of anyone calling about criminal activity at the house but were still checking police, fire and emergency databases.

"Prayers have finally been answered. The nightmare is over," said Stephen Anthony, head of the FBI in Cleveland. "These three young ladies have provided us with the ultimate definition of survival and perseverance. The healing can now begin."

He added: "Words can't describe the emotions being felt by all. Yes, law enforcement professionals do cry."

The three women were rescued after one of them kicked out the bottom portion of a locked screen door and used a neighbor's telephone to call 911.

"Help me. I'm Amanda Berry," she breathlessly told a dispatcher in a call that exhilarated and astonished much of the city. "I've been kidnapped and I've been missing for 10 years and I'm, I'm here, I'm free now."

Berry, 27, Michelle Knight, 32, and Gina DeJesus, about 23, had apparently been held captive in the house since their teens or early 20s, said Police Chief Michael McGrath. CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds reported that the three women were held in restraints for some time of their captivity.

Three brothers -- Ariel Castro, Onil Castro and Pedro Castro -- whose ages are between 50 and 54 -- were arrested. Ariel Castro, a former school bus driver, owned the home, situated in a poor neighborhood dotted with boarded-up houses just south of downtown Cleveland. No immediate charges were filed but the suspects are expected to be charged on Wednesday.

A 6-year-old girl believed to be Berry's daughter was also found in the home, said Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba. He would not say who the father was.

The women were reported by police to be in good health and were reunited with joyous family members but remained in seclusion.

Robert Osario, a cousin of Gina DeJesus, told Reynolds that Gina was happy and that her spirits were high when asked how she looked. He also knew the suspect Ariel Castro for over 20 years. "We never suspected anyone like that would do something like this," Osario said.

Robert Osario, a cousin of Gina DeJesus, told Reynolds that Gina was happy and that her spirits were high when asked how she looked. He also knew the suspect Ariel Castro for over 20 years. "We never suspected anyone like that would do something like this," Osario said.

Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard, who were held captive by abductors at a young age, said they were elated by the women's rescue.

 

"I am overjoyed," Smart told "CBS Evening News" anchor Scott Pelley when she heard the news. "I think that just goes to show that everyday people, the general public are the people who are going to make the biggest difference. It was because of the bravery and the heroism of that one [neighbor] that ended up saving those three girls because he was willing to listen, he was willing to act, he was willing to help. So I think it's just wonderful."

Police would not say how the women were taken captive or how they were hidden in the same neighborhood where they vanished.

CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reported that the FBI is still processing the home where the three women were held in captivity. They're also searching the residences and the cars used by the three suspects, the Castro brothers. Investigators say they also might look for evidence in workplaces and storage facilities. At the same time, some specially trained interviewers are talking with the three women victims to find out how they were abducted and the conditions of their captivity and also to find out if anybody else was many people have involved.

As for other potential victims in the Cleveland matter, Orr reported that one case involves another missing woman, Ashley Summers, which the FBI is now taking another look. She disappeared from the same Cleveland neighborhood in July 2007 when she was 14 years old. In 2009, the FBI issued an appeal for information regarding three missing women: Summers and two of those who were found Monday, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus. However, it's not known if Summers had any connection at all to the others.

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