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Amanda Berry returns home after decade in captivity

10:40 AM, May 8, 2013   |    comments
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These two photographs, courtesy of the FBI, show Amanda Berry, left, and Georgina DeJesus, who went missing as teenagers about a decade ago and were found alive Monday in a residential area of Cleveland. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

Yamiche Alcindor and Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY

CLEVELAND -- For the first time in almost 10 years, Amanda Berry -- accompanied by a 6-year-old daughter fathered by her captor -- returned Wednesday to her sister's home, which was covered with balloons, flowers, teddy bears and a huge sign proclaiming : "Welcome home, Amanda."

It was Berry's first sight of the modest, two-story home since she disappeared on April 21, 2003 - a day before her 17th birthday - after telling her sister she was getting a ride home from her job at a Burger King.

Berry's sister, Beth Serrano, spoke briefly to reporters in front of the house to thank the public and the news media for their support and to request privacy for the family "until we are ready to make a statement."

"We are elated, this is a happy ending," a tearful Serrano said to applause and cheers from the crowd.

Behind her, a handmade sign on the porch read: "Wish it, dream it, do it."

Berry, and two other women, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32, were freed Monday after being held captive for almost a decade. Three suspects have been arrested in connection with their abduction.

Berry, 27, who arrived home in a convoy escorted by police, has been with her family at an undisclosed location since her rescue.

"She wants to come home to be with her sister," Cleveland Police 1st District Cmdr. Thomas McCartney said moments before her arrival.

"What a relief to us all as a community that they are finally home and thank God that they are alive," he said.

In a conversation Tuesday by phone with her grandmother in Tennessee, which reporters observed, Amanda said the 6-year-old girl who was rescued from the house along with the three women, was her daughter Jocelyn, born on Christmas Day.

Police have said they were delaying any intense debriefing of the victims until they adjust to their unexpected freedom.

Police Chief Michael McGrath said Wednesday that the three young women, during their ordeal, had been "bound and there were chains and ropes in the hall."

Police spokesman Sammy Morris also confirmed that the restraints were among evidence collected by law enforcement officials who've been combing through the house on Seymour Avenue.

McGrath told NBC's Savannah Guthrie that the three women's physical condition was "very good considering the circumstances." They were hospitalized after their rescue. Berry and DeJesus were later released and moved to "safe houses" away from the news media; CNN reports Knight was still hospitalized Wednesday morning.

McGrath said that the suspects in the case -- three brothers -- are "talking" but would not say if they have confessed to the alleged abduction and years of sexual abuse of the three women.

Police have released little information about Ariel Castro, a former school bus driver and musician whose two-story, clapboard home appears to be the makeshift prison where the three women were kept.

Castro, 52, is being held on suspicion of rape and kidnapping, as are brothers Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50.

Police Chief McGrath indicated that the three would be officially charged on Wednesday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of three brothers is believed to have fathered the 6-year-old girl found at the home with Berry, according to Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba.

The women and child were freed on Monday after a neighbor, alerted to Berry's screams, rushed over to the house, and kicked in the lower part of the door. Berry, dressed in pajamas and sandals, tearfully used a borrowed cellphone to call 911. "I've been kidnapped and I've been missing for 10 years and I'm freed now," Berry told the dispatcher.

Police arrived two minutes later and freed the others.

The Castro brothers allegedly forced all three women to have sex, resulting in up to five pregnancies, according to a report by Cleveland's WKYC-TV. The station, quoting unnamed law enforcement sources, reported that the Castros also beat the women while they were pregnant, with several fetuses not surviving. Police did not publicly confirm the report.

In addition, Khalid Samad, a former assistant safety director for the city, said law enforcement officials told him that the women were beaten while pregnant, with several miscarrying, and that a dungeon of sorts with chains was in the home. Samad, who works with a crime prevention non-profit group, said he saw the women at the hospital Monday night. His description and other sourced information was not commented upon publicly by officials Tuesday night.

Investigators from the FBI, Cleveland Police and the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department are poring over Ariel Castro's West Cleveland home - located in a working class neighborhood less than a mile from where the victims were abducted. Officials dressed in white-paper body suits and blue gloves emerged periodically from the backyard Tuesday afternoon. Investigators have yet to excavate Castro's yard.

"They are going through the place with a fine-tooth comb," Cleveland Police Sgt. Sammy Morris said.

Berry disappeared in disappeared in 2003. DeJesus, then 14, went missing in 2004 on her way home from school. Knight, then 20, disappeared in August 2002. She was last seen at her cousin's home.

Contributing: Donna Leinwand Leger and Gary Strauss, USA TODAY; Associated Press

USA TODAY

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