Free at Last!

Amanda Berry reunites with her sister (courtesy of Getty Images)

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!”

Gina DeJesus before her disappearance (courtesy of WKYC)

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.

The Castro brothers: Kidnappers and All-Around Scumbags (courtesy of Twitter)

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.

Posted on May 7, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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