May 8, 2013

Ohio Women Were Tied And Chained

Cleveland's police chief has said the three women held captive in an Ohio house for about a decade were restrained with ropes and chains.

Michael McGrath told US broadcaster NBC that investigators believe the victims were allowed out in the backyard occasionally.

He added Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were in good condition "considering the circumstances".

Chief McGrath said a charging decision would come later on Wednesday.

Former school bus driver Ariel Castro, 52, who owns the house where the women were found, has been arrested along with his two brothers, Pedro, 54, and Onil, 50.

Meanwhile, Cleveland public safety director Martin Flask said in a statement that no human remains had been found at the home, after "a thorough search". Police have said they are also searching other properties.

Standing near the scene, Chief McGrath told NBC's Today Show: "Currently, today, we are interviewing the suspects that were arrested here the night before last. They are talking."

He said the women had been allowed out of the house "very rarely".

"They were released out in the backyard once in a while I believe," he said.

Chief McGrath disputed claims by neighbours that police did not fully investigate reports of suspicious activity at 2207 Seymour Avenue, which is in a working-class district.

He said he was "absolutely" sure police did not miss any opportunities to find the women over the years.

Neighbours have told news organisations they had made multiple calls to police about the house to report women crying for help and the noise of pounding on doors.

Chief McGrath said he could not confirm reports that the captives had had multiple pregnancies.

Police have confirmed a six-year-old girl, Jocelyn, who was discovered along with the women, is Ms Berry's daughter. The girl was apparently conceived and born during her mother's captivity.

Ms Berry, 27, arrived at her sister's home shortly before midday on Wednesday. The sister, Beth Serrano, read a statement asking for her family's privacy to be respected.

Ms Berry, who disappeared in 2003 aged 16, escaped with the help of a neighbour who heard her screaming and kicking a door while her alleged captor was out of the house.

When police arrived they also found Ms DeJesus, 23, and Ms Knight, 32, in the house. Ms DeJesus had gone missing aged 14 in 2004, while Ms Knight had disappeared in 2002, aged 20.

Ariel Castro reportedly fled the neighbourhood, and was arrested at a nearby McDonald's restaurant, according to local media. It is unclear when his brothers were detained.

A neighbour, Israel Lugo, told the Associated Press that Ariel Castro had identified Jocelyn as "his girlfriend's daughter" when they went to a nearby park to play last week.

Residents of the mostly Puerto Rican district said the former bus driver, a family friend of Ms DeJesus, had helped hand out fliers to raise awareness of her disappearance and attended a candlelight vigil for her last year.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Johnson said on Tuesday that child welfare officials had paid a visit to Ariel Castro's home in January 2004 because he was reported to have left a child on a school bus while he stopped for lunch.

But no-one answered the door and an inquiry found no criminal intent, officials said.

Puerto Rico-born Ariel Castro was reportedly sacked from his school-bus driving job in November for "lack of judgment". He played bass guitar in Latin music bands in the area.

His son, Anthony Castro, told London's Daily Mail newspaper that he had rarely spoken to his father, adding that the suspect would not let him inside on his last visit to his house.

"The house was always locked," he said. "There were places we could never go. There were locks on the basement. Locks on the attic. Locks on the garage."

Cleveland's police were pilloried in 2009 after the discovery of a home in a poor district where Anthony Sowell had killed 11 women.

Victims' families allege that police had not taken neighbours' reported suspicions seriously enough.

Meanwhile, there has been an online backlash against a self-proclaimed psychic, Sylvia Browne, who in 2004 told Ms Berry's mother, Louwana Miller, on TV that her daughter was dead and that her last words were "goodbye, mom, I love you".

Ms Miller died in 2006 of heart failure, aged 43.

Source: BBC News


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