Monday evening, Charles Ramsey of Cleveland, Ohio was in his home on Seymour Avenue, sitting down to enjoy a fast-food dinner—as much as anyone could enjoy fast food, that is—when he heard a woman screaming. The sound appeared to be coming from the house next door and when Ramsey went to his front porch to investigate, he noticed that a young woman was trying to escape from it.
“Help me get out!” she yelled to him. “I’ve been in here a long time!”
Thinking his neighbor Ariel Castro to be involved in some kind of domestic dispute—which struck him as odd since Castro appeared to live alone—Ramsey immediately kicked in the bottom of the front door and helped the young woman and a small child out.
“Call 911,” the woman told him frantically. “My name is Amanda Berry.”
Ramsey rushed Berry, 27, and the child, 6—who actually might be her daughter—back to his house and handed her the phone so she could call the police.
“Help me, I am Amanda Berry,” she told the dispatcher. “I’ve been kidnapped and I’ve been missing for ten years. And I’m here, I’m free now.”
Initially, the emergency dispatcher said an officer would be sent as soon as one became available, but that wasn’t good enough for Berry.
“No, I need them now!” she explained in desperation. “Before he gets back!”
Needless to say, police arrived a short time later and were able to free two other women from Castro’s home: Georgina “Gina” DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32. Along with Berry, both had been missing for years—and all three disappeared from Lorain Avenue, roughly three miles away from Castro.
Later the same day, police arrested Ariel Castro, 52—a former bus driver for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District—as well as his brothers, 54-year-old Pedro and 50-year-old Oneil. All three are in jail pending charges and the outcome of this ongoing investigation.
Finding any missing person is incredibly difficult, especially after a decade or more has elapsed. So discovering three missing women at the same time was, until Monday, unheard of. Thankfully, all three—as well as the young child—appear to be in good health, at least physically.
Details about their abduction and subsequent incarceration—for lack of a better term—have yet to be released, but we all know there could be some emotional and psychological challenges ahead.
Amanda Berry went missing on the evening of April 21, 2003. She was 16 years old and returning home from a shift at Burger King, only a few blocks from her home.
Gina DeJesus was walking home from school on April 2, 2004 and was last seen using a pay phone down the road from her home. She was 14 years old when she mysteriously vanished.
Michelle Knight disappeared on August 22, 2002 after visiting with her cousin not far from her home. She was 18 years old.
Despite being worse for wear, though, all three women have been reunited with their families and should be fine eventually. And like anyone out there who has been following this story, my attention now turns to the suspects.
Who the hell were these guys and what prompted them to kidnap and imprison these girls? Better yet, what did they do to these women over the ten or so years they kept them locked up?
Answers are forthcoming, to be sure, but there seemed to be some warning signs—or at least suspicions—that neighbors could have picked up on to resolve this terrible situation much faster.
For instance, neighbor Israel Lugo told reporters recently that his sister always felt “bad vibes” coming from Castro’s home and asked that the children not be allowed to play outside without supervision. To make matters worse, Lugo heard someone yelling from his neighbor’s home in 2011 and called the police, but they left when no one answered the door.
And I wish that was the extent of it, but there’s more.
Last Sunday, Lugo said he bumped into Castro at a local park and noticed he had a young girl with him. When Lugo asked who she was, Castro claimed it was his girlfriend’s daughter.
I know hindsight is 20/20, but come on. None of these things struck anyone as odd? I find that very hard to believe, but it matters little now.
What does matter, however, is that DeJesus, Knight, Berry and her alleged daughter are safe, while all three suspects are behind bars and will likely remain there indefinitely.
Although this outcome is much more favorable than anyone could possibly imagine—including the family members whose loved ones vanished so long ago—what bothers me most is the fact that these women were kidnapped and held within several miles of their homes. For all the searching, investigating and canvassing of the Cleveland area that took place after their disappearances, the sad fact is they were all closer than anyone expected… and no one was the wiser.
Oh, how I long for the days of my youth when kids could walk the streets safely and without fear of abduction. As they say, though, you can never go back. And as long as there are crazy people in this world with evil in their hearts, those days will undoubtedly exist only in memory.
What a shame.
UPDATE: Like the Boston Marathon bombing, developments in the Cleveland captivity story are coming at machine-gun pace: ropes and chains were found in Castro’s home and we now know the women were bound; no evidence of human remains have been found on the premises; neighbors once saw a naked girl in the Castro’s back yard while he rounded her up, but never did anything about it; Castro was accused of physically abusing his former common law wife and at one time wouldn’t let family members come to the second floor of his home, where the couple lived; and most recently, Ariel Castro was charged with three counts of rape and four counts of kidnapping.
Castro’s brothers—Pedro and Onil—have not been charged because authorities have no evidence they were involved in the kidnappings. As he did when he was living with his common law wife, Castro never allowed family members to enter his home—and rarely permitted anyone else inside, either. He basically kept these girls chained up in different rooms—they were all aware of each other—impregnated two of them—Amanda Berry bore him a child, but the other miscarried—and kept them for himself. Sick bastard.
Incidentally, I would like to retract my comments about Pedro and Onil Castro. If they were indeed as unaware as everyone else—never knowing what their brother Ariel was up to—then I apologize for calling them scumbags. I also regret calling Ariel a scumbag because, honestly, that’s an insult to scumbags everywhere. He is a monster, plain and simple.
Jack was diagnosed with the disease several years ago and has already lived through two surgeries and endless rounds of chemotherapy, which continue to this day. Jack’s tumor shrank quite a bit during this time and his parents hope to see an end to the chemo this summer, but there are no guarantees.
In other words, Jack has been through a lot. And the Huskers sympathize, especially Coach Bo Pelini. In 2011, when Jack was first diagnosed with brain cancer, Pelini arranged for him to meet his favorite Nebraska player, I-back Rex Burkhead. And this year, he completely outdid himself.
Last Friday night, Jack’s father Andy got a call from the Nebraska coaches and heard what Pelini had planned. He made certain that Jack was on the field the next day—in uniform along with the rest of the team—but nothing could prepare his brave young son for what was to come.
During the first half, Jack stood on the sideline and watched the game with his favorite team, including his hero Burkhead. Halftime came and went and, by all measures, it was a decent game. The third quarter ended. The fourth quarter started and the clock started winding down. Then, with only eight minutes or so remaining, it happened.
Quarterback Taylor Martinez called Jack onto the field. After a brief huddle with Coach Pelini and a graduate assistant to review the play, the time had come.
Jack took his place behind Martinez, becoming the youngest (and smallest) running back in Huskers football history… as far as I know. And what happened next is nothing short of miraculous, not to mention touching in ways that even bring tears to my eyes… and I’m completely devoid of all emotion!
I’m kidding, of course.
It was 2nd and 10 from the Red team‘s 31-yard-line when the ball was snapped and handed to Jack, who initially ran the wrong way. Martinez set him straight and seconds later Jack was off, trucking down the field with both the offense and defense cheering him along… as well as the more than 60,000 fans in attendance and everyone on the bench.
Sixty-nine yards later, Jack crossed the goal line and scored his first—and likely not his last—touchdown. He even went down in Huskers history as the leading rusher for the day!
At that point, the place went nuts!
Players converged on Jack in a wave of red and white, lifting him onto their shoulders and chanting his name over and over again. Fans screamed and cheered the young player as he lived his dream. His wish had come true, and then some!
It’s enough to make a grown man cry… or so I’ve heard. Really. It wasn’t me.
See for yourself if you don’t believe me, because it’s right here.
And if you’re interested in learning more about Jack, his struggle with pediatric brain cancer or the disease itself, take a little trip to the Team Jack Legacy Fund or the Team Jack Facebook page. They’re worth a visit.
You’re the man, Jack!
If you ask me, some people are far too sensitive.
Earlier this year, Time magazine ran an article about a LEGO toy and asked readers if it seemed racist. This particular toy comes from the Star Wars universe—Jabba’s Palace—and to me, it looks pretty cool.
Sadly, not everyone agrees.
One group that was offended by this toy was the Turkish Cultural Community of Austria (TCCA), who claimed the toy looked too much like mosques and other religious structures in Beirut and Istanbul. They also claimed that some of the figures included with the LEGO set—characters the company isn’t even responsible for creating—reflect negatively on different racial groups in Asia.
To them, Jabba’s palace reinforces “racial prejudice and vulgar insinuations against… Orientals and Asians as sneaky and criminal personalities (slaveholders, leaders of criminal organizations, terrorists, criminals, murderers, human sacrifice)…” and so on, and so forth.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t most Asian people frown upon the term Orientals? From what I understand, this descriptor is just as offensive as calling a Spanish person a wetback or a Caucasian a honkie.
Either way, it doesn’t seem very politically correct.
At any rate, LEGO has elected to pull Jabba’s Palace from store shelves, but not because some people consider it racist. Here’s their official statement on the matter:
“A few media have reported that the product is being discontinued due to the mentioned criticism. This is, however, not correct … As a normal process products in the LEGO Star Wars assortment usually have a life-cycle of one to three years after which they leave the assortment and may be renewed after some years. The LEGO Star Wars product Jabba’s Palace 9516 was planned from the beginning to be in the assortment only until the end of 2013 as new exciting models from the Star Wars universe will follow.”
Of course, the TCCA views this move as some kind of victory or confirmation that their racial claims were warranted: “We are very grateful and congratulate LEGO on the decision to take Jabba’s Palace out of production.”
Give me a small break.
Have things deteriorated so much in our civilization that even harmless children’s toys can be accused of being racist?
I would understand if someone produced an Al-Qaeda Ken doll or Barbie with slanted eyes, but Star Wars? How can fictional characters from a movie released more than two decades ago suddenly become racist and offensive? And where were these complainers when the film was first released?
It boggles the mind to think that in the age of technological enlightenment and increasing tolerance, people would still take offense to something so ridiculous. Sure, there are times when products do reinforce racial prejudices or insult particular groups, but this surely isn’t one of them.
Freaking Jar Jar Binks was more offensive than Jabba and his crew, for goodness sake.
If you ask me, it’s time for people to stop being so hypersensitive, to take more things at face value and to understand that when it comes to breaking down racial barriers—especially where children are concerned—good parenting will help more than criticizing some kids’ toy.
Why not focus your attention on that for a change?
This past Tuesday, authorities in Union, New Jersey made a gruesome and disturbing discovery, but one with a rather sweet, sad twist.
They were called to the Mill Run at Union Apartments after tenants complained of a funky smell coming from one of the units. Police found the apartment and noticed that the door was open, but the chain lock was connected. After forcing the door open, they entered the unit and found that it wasn’t vacant.
There was a malnourished 4-year-old boy locked inside. And he had been there for almost a week.
Although there was plenty of food in the apartment, the poor little guy couldn’t reach it and was unable to open the refrigerator door. He was basically starving to death, but somehow managed to stay alert. Not only that, but he also found time to care for someone else.
Police found her in the bedroom. She was the boy’s mother and one thing was for certain: she had been dead for some time and was “in a state of decomposition,” according to the official statement.
And here’s what really tears me up about this story, even more than the horror of a child trapped in an apartment with a corpse.
“He was putting some type of lotion on her, but she was deceased,” Police Director Dan Zieser said later. “It’s very sad.”
And very sweet.
Although this story brought to mind Silence of the Lambs when I first heard it—”It puts the lotion on its skin”—I was also touched by how precious and caring this child was towards his mother.
Being so young, the boy obviously didn’t know she was dead and was doing what he thought would help… and while he was starving, no less. It really tugs at the heart-strings, don’t you think?
The good news is that this sweet young man was taken to a local hospital for treatment and should be fine, at least in terms of his physical condition. There could be some as-yet-unseen psychological effects in the years to come, but I’m optimistic. He’s so young that it’s likely he will forget about this in time.
As they say, time heals all wounds. And let’s hope that’s the case for this amazing child.
I learned the importance of respecting my elders at a very young age. And despite their occasional refusal to indulge my every whim or to shower me with gifts, there were no adults I respected more—or loved more—than my parents. I can only hope that most kids feel the same way.
Actually, I know of at least one other who definitely does. Her name is Celia and she is a 9-year-old girl from Los Angeles County in California. And on Sunday night, the love and respect she has for her father came shining through.
The pair was returning from a friend’s house and driving down the darkened Sierra Highway near Acton around 1 a.m. For whatever reason—perhaps due to alcohol—Celia’s father never saw the sharp curve ahead of them. Their Ford Escape careened off the road, rolled several times down a 200-foot embankment and came to rest upside down in the ravine below.
While her father lay unconscious, his young daughter got herself loose and crawled out of the wreck. She smelled gasoline and—amazingly, I might add—knew to turn off the engine before going for help. And her task wasn’t an easy one, either. The desert at night can get pitch black and given the terrain, you just never know where that next step will take you.
“She walked quite a distance in a very, very threatening environment,” he later said of the brave young lady. “It’s very black out there, very dark. It’s very steep and it’s brushy and there’s also coyotes in the background.”
Yikes! I forgot about coyotes!
Eventually, Celia saw a light in the distance and started for it. She discovered a home but when she knocked, no one answered. So she made her way back to the crash, checked on her father and resorted to Plan B: climbing up the embankment to the road above her.
A treacherous trip later, Celia made it and headed for the only other light she could see, which was coming from a rail station more than a mile away. Once there, she was able to flag someone down who immediately contacted the authorities. By the time they reached the scene of the accident, though, it was too late.
The girl’s father, Alejandro Renteria, was dead. He was 35 years old.
The good news is that this incredible child suffered only minor cuts and bruises and should be fine—physically, at least. She will still have to come to terms with the loss of her father—thankfully, she is already surrounded by family and friends—but at least she can take comfort in knowing that because of her efforts, he at least had a chance of survival.
And even though he isn’t here any more, there can be little doubt that he would be extremely proud of his daughter. Who wouldn’t be?
Parenting isn’t easy. Anyone who says otherwise is either lying or trying to sell you something. And while it may be easy to recognize good parenting when you see it, picking up on bad parenting is even easier.
Especially where people like Judy Viger of Gansevoort, New York are concerned.
The 33-year-old mother was recently arrested and charged with multiple counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Why, you ask? Check this out.
Last November, Viger threw a party for her son’s 16th birthday at a local bowling alley. A number of teenagers attended what should have been a fun and innocent celebration, but what they encountered was much, much different.
As a special treat for her son and his friends, Viger did what most parents… or most good parents… would consider unthinkable: she hired strippers.
Viger obviously wasn’t thinking straight when she arranged this ridiculous entertainment for the underaged partygoers. But she also forgot that we live in the age of technology, as evidenced by all the photos posted on Facebook later. A few even showed strippers giving lap dances and wrapping their legs around the heads of several minors.
When parents of Viger’s guests saw these photos, they immediately went to the South Glens Falls police, who took witness statements and then tracked down the misguided mother. She was apprehended and now could face jail time for her dumb move.
When it comes to the general stupidity of some people, I am rarely surprised by what I see, hear and read. But parents are supposed to know better, right?
I guess it never occurred to Viger that exposing these young boys to sexual situations might cause problems later. Granted, kids these days often learn about sex from their friends, usually long before their parents ever sit them down for “the talk.” But doing things like this only exacerbate any potential deviant behavior in the future. Hell, they might even guarantee it.
I’ve only been a parent for five years and haven’t dealt with a teenager yet, but I can say this: I will never hire strippers for my son’s birthday parties, much less expose him to things that could harm him later. This includes turning him into a pervert before he’s old enough to decide whether he really wants to be one or not. And don’t get me started on the whole objectification of women thing, because this could quickly become a rant rather than a simple blog post.
So parents, do yourselves and your children a favor: let them enjoy the innocence of youth as long as possible. Such a thing might not exist any more, but that doesn’t mean you have to deny them of it completely by doing dumb shit like this.
In other words, take the example of Judy Viger and whenever you encounter a situation that demands ethical and moral action, do the opposite of what you think she would do. I’m sure it will cause fewer problems down the road.
One such passenger who appreciated the distraught child even less was Joe Rickey Handley of Idaho. When Bennett was unable to silence the young boy, Handley told her to “shut that [N-word] baby up.” And when that didn’t work, he did the unthinkable.
Handley slapped the youngster in the face, scratching him below the eye and causing him to cry even louder.
Several rows away, passenger Todd Wooten heard Handley’s cursing, witnessed the attack and rushed to Bennett’s aid. I’m not sure what he did once he got there, but if it were me, I would make sure Handley knew what being slapped in the face felt like.
Instead, Handley faces federal assault charges and according to his attorney plans to plead not guilty.
“Let’s just let the case speak for itself as it develops,” defense attorney Marcia Shein said.
That certainly sounds like something I would say if I knew my client was guilty. Baby-slapping jackass…
Since I work in higher education, advise college students and teach classes from time to time, I have always considered myself to be an educator. We all know this profession rarely comes with a high (or even fair) salary, but it is rewarding in lots of other ways.
I still remember the first time one of my former at-risk students walked across the stage, shook our president’s hand and collected the degree they once thought they would never achieve. Catcalls and cheers from family members echoed through the auditorium and honestly, I even felt like a proud father myself. It’s a moment I will never forget and one that exemplifies the reason I chose this career: to help students.
So when I read or hear about other educators treating their students badly, it burns me up inside and makes me wish I lived closer to them so I could give them a piece of my mind in person. Since this obviously isn’t possible in most cases, I instead choose to voice my disgust in this forum.
And believe me. This story is pretty disgusting.
Ksenya Strelyayeva was a first grader at the Staten Island Catholic school, St. John Villa Academy–no different from any other child her age–until last week, when she was suddenly expelled by the nuns there. The reason?
Ksenya accidentally bumped her head in class and started bleeding.
Seriously. That’s it.
The accident happened when Ksenya bent down to throw away some papers and bumped her head on the sharp corner of a shelf. She immediately started bleeding and was rushed to the front office since there was no school nurse available. Someone there even used a Clorox wipe to clean the cut.
Yeah. I can see how this was all Ksenya’s fault.
At any rate, the dismissal letter arrived a few days after Ksenya’s mother asked for and received an accident report from the school. Since attendance at St. John Villa is by “invitation only,” the nuns had chosen to revoke the one they originally extended to Ksenya.
“They throw a six-year-old child in the street because she bumped her head,” Anastasia Strelyayeva, Ksenya’s mother, later told reporters. “They broke my heart and they broke my daughter’s heart.”
As if this weren’t bad enough, the school also refused to comment and instead released a statement just as confusing as their decision to boot the little girl: “I deny the accusations that St. John Villa Academy is unsafe.”
Pardon my French, but what in the hell is that supposed to mean?
At first, I had no idea. I thought we were talking about a girl being unfairly expelled, not school safety. And I didn’t remember hearing anything involving accusations against the school. Then it occurred to me.
The nuns kicked Ksenya out because they think she’s accident prone and could tarnish their reputation as a “safe school.” If parents found out about this, they would start yanking their kids out so fast that the place would have to shut down, right?
Give me a break.
As a parent–and I hope that I speak for most of the parents out there–I understand that accidents happen. And they happen to children a lot. Some of them we’ll be around for, others we won’t. And given all the time our kids spend in school, it’s only logical that some accidents would happen there, too.
I want to emphasize the word logical because honestly, these nuns are anything but. And correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t nuns supposed to be working for Christ or something? Kicking a little girl out of school for bumping her head doesn’t seem very Christian to me, but I’m certainly no expert.
As sad as this story is already–and as sorry as I feel for this family–their mistreatment comes with another unfortunate consequence. Now that Ksenya must attend a different school, her parents have to pay even more in tuition–something like $2000 more each year.
St. John Villa Academy was nice enough to return half of Ksenya’s annual tuition, but they have not yet returned her registration fee or uniform costs. And from I understand, both were rather large.
Is it me, or does this seem like one final insult to the poor, victimized family? I don’t know for sure, but I do know one thing.
I am staying the hell away from nuns!
Tell me if this sounds like a story with a happy ending.
The pencil went into Olivia’s eye, pierced her brain and stopped at the back of her skull. In all, about five inches worth of pencil went in.
“You’re okay,” her mother told her as she picked her up and finally saw what happened. “The pencil was coming right out of her eye only a little bit,” Susan Smith would later tell reporters.
Susan rushed Olivia to the hospital and a short time later, she was flown to Boston Children’s Hospital. A team there was able to remove the pencil without surgery.
Given these facts, only a few things could happen. First, Olivia could die during the surgery, adding yet another tragedy to America‘s ever-growing list. Second, she could survive the procedure, yet experience so much brain damage as to make a normal life unlikely. Or third, she could survive, experience no real damage and live for the rest of her life as if this had never happened.
I, for one, would expect one of the first two options to be true. Given all the negativity in the world, though, this is to be expected. But I’m happy to say that in Olivia’s case, I would be wrong on both counts. Number three is the big winner.
Chief Dan MacDonald of the New Boston Fire Department had this to say: “No impact on the eye sight, there’s no impact to the optical nerve, or any major parts of the brain. There’s no way to plan to do something like that and have it happen.”
Fellow fireman Lieutenant Ron Riendeau was on the scene following Olivia’s accident and saw her again shortly after being discharged from the hospital: “I see her running around, playing like nothing ever happened.”
Olivia is expected to make a full recovery and if you ask me, it’s a miracle. I know I’m agnostic and I do recognize the mathematical probability of this occurring, despite it being very small and highly unlikely. It’s just that the last few years have featured so many stories of young children dying or being killed, I guess we all just kind of expect stories to end badly.
It’s nice when one ends well, though. And Olivia will always be a miracle in my book.
At first glance, the title of this article may cause you to picture Barack and Mitt standing in a river, white robes flowing, waiting for a minister to dunk them in the cool water and baptize them.
Such is not the case.
What I’m actually referring to is a recent development in the country where Obama’s father was born, Kenya.
Wednesday morning, 20-year-old Millicent Owuor gave birth to twins close to the village of Kogelo in south-west Kenya. Kogelo is the actual village where Obama’s father was born.
For whatever reason, Owuor decided to name her twins after the presidential candidates. She now has Barack Obama Owuor (BOO) and Mitt Romney Owuor (I can’t think of a good nickname for him since Mitt serves the purpose).
Reuters reported that a number of babies born at the same hospital were named Obama, but this is the first Romney baby to be born in Kenya.
I wonder how Mitt would feel knowing his namesake is a young African boy?