Reports of sexual abuse, beatings inside the Cleveland house

2:52 PM, May 7, 2013   |    comments
  • Onil Castro, 50, left, and Pedro Castro, 54, where arrested, along with their brother, Ariel Castro, 52, in connection with abducting and holding three young women captive for almost a decade inside a Cleveland home..(Photo: Cleveland Dept. of Public Safety)
  • 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)
  • Amanda Berry, right, hugs her sister Beth Serrano after being reunited in a Cleveland hospital on May 6. Berry and two other women were found in a house near downtown Cleveland after being missing for about a decade.(Photo: Family photo courtesy WOIO-TV, via AP)
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CLEVELAND (USA TODAY/AP) -- Three young women, reunited with their families Tuesday for the first time in nearly a decade, have not yet given authorities the full details of their life in captivity, but there were reports that the women were forced to endure years of sexual abuse and beatings inside a rundown house on Cleveland's west side.

Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight bolted to freedom Monday after Berry's screams alerted a neighbor who helped her break free.

Police have arrested three brothers, Ariel Castro, 52, the owner of the house and a former Cleveland school bus driver; Pedro Castro, 54; and Onil Castro, 50, in connection with the alleged abductions.

Investigators told reporters Tuesday they were delaying "deep questioning" of the three young women as they worked through the traumatic experience.

"Right now, we want to let them spend some time with their families and take this process very, very slowly and respectful for their families and the young girls' needs," Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba said.

But neighbors and police sources were hinting at a life of horror for the women at the hands of captors for almost ten years.

Tomba, tight-lipped on what investigators have uncovered, did say that police believe that a 6-year-old girl also found in the house on was Berry's daughter. He declined to say who the father was or where the child was born.

Two unidentified neighbors say police were called twice in recent years to the Castro house to investigate suspicious activity there, the Associated Press reported.

Onil Castro, 50, left, and Pedro Castro, 54, where arrested, along with their brother, Ariel Castro, 52, in connection with abducting and holding three young women captive for almost a decade inside a Cleveland home..(Photo: Cleveland Dept. of Public Safety)
One man says he heard pounding on doors at the house. Another neighbor, also unidentified, says her daughter once saw a naked woman crawling on her hands and knees in the backyard. Both say police looked around the house but never went inside.

Cleveland officials said Tuesday that they have no record of anyone calling about criminal activity at the house but that they are still combing their records. Police said only that officers went there in 2004 when a student was found abandoned on Ariel Castro's school bus, but no one answered the door.

Ariel Castro later spoke with police and no charges were filed in that case.

WKYC-TV, quoting unidentified police sources, reported Tuesday that the suspects allegedly forced the women to have sex, resulting in up to five pregnancies.

WKYC's Tom Meyer quoted one of the sources as saying the captors would beat the pregnant girls. Two sources are quoted as saying the babies did not survive.

Investigators worked through the night gathering evidence and clues in the case. They noted the presence of "disturbed" dirt in the backyard. WKYC says its source did not indicate whether that was related to the alleged pregnancies.

WKYC says Cleveland police department did not immediately respond to queries about the reports.

ANOTHER STRANGE TURN: Son of accused had written about missing Cleveland teen

The three set were free Monday after neighbor Charles Ramsey heard Berry's screams and helped her slip through a small opening in a door.

Police rushed to the scene within two minutes after Berry called 911 from the neighbor's home. Police then freed the other two women.

The women were hospitalized in fair condition, but released to their families on Tuesday morning.

Police Chief Michael McGrath said the women's emotional well-being was the top priority. "After we get that stabilized, we will move forward with the debriefing process," he said.

Police also declined to elaborate on possible charges against the three suspects.

Cleveland police say three women who went missing as teenagers about a decade ago have been found alive.

Ramsey, the neighbor, said he had had barbecue with Castro in the backyard and never saw anything amiss.

"There was nothing exciting about him - well, until today," he told WEWS-TV.

The stunning discovery of the three women ended a mystery that had perplexed the city for as long as a decade.

Each had gone missing separately. Berry disappeared at age 16 on April 21, 2003, when she called her sister to say she was getting a ride home from her job at a Burger King.

DeJesus went missing at age 14 on her way home from school about a year later. They were found just a few miles from where they had disappeared.

Cleveland resident Charles Ramsey thought he was witnessing a domestic dispute when he heard a woman screaming, trying to get out of a house. He was shocked to find that three women were allegedly held hostage near his home for years. (May 7)

Police said Knight, now 32, went missing in 2002. The Cleveland Plain Dealer quoted Michelle Knight's grandmother, Deborah Knight, as saying her daughter believed that Michelle was last seen several years ago in a van with an older man at a shopping plaza.

"I've been praying, never forgot about her, ever," Kayla Rogers, a childhood friend of DeJesus, told newspaper. "This is amazing. This is a celebration. I'm so happy. I just want to see her walk out of those doors so I can hug her."

The end to years of trauma ended within moments after Ramsey heard Berry's cries for help.

"I heard screaming," he told WEWS-TV. "I'm eating my McDonald's. I come outside. I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of a house."

Ramsey said the door was only wide enough for a hand to fit through, so they kicked out the bottom and made enough space for her to escape.

She quickly called 911. "I'm Amanda Berry. ... I've been kidnapped, and I've been missing for 10 years. And I'm here. I'm free now."

She said she had been taken by someone and begged for police officers to arrive at the house on Cleveland's west side before he returned.

In 2004, police went to Castro's home, which is about 3 miles from where Knight and Berry were last seen, but no one answered the door, police said.

Child welfare officials had alerted police that Castro, a school bus driver, apparently left a child unattended on a bus. Police later spoke to Castro and determined there was no criminal intent

Berry's mother, Louwana Miller, died in March 2006. She had spent the previous three years looking for her daughter.

Councilwoman Dona Brady said she had spent many hours with Miller, who never gave up hope that her daughter was alive.

"She literally died of a broken heart," Brady said.

In an odd twist, Ariel "Anthony' Castro, the 31-year-old son of suspect Ariel Castro, wrote in Plain Press, a community newspaper from Cleveland's west side, in 2004 about how DeJesus' disappearance had changed her neighborhood.

"(I)t's difficult to go any length of time without seeing Gina's picture on telephone poles, in windows, or on cars along the busy streets," wrote Castro, who studied journalism at Bowling Green State University.

He even quoted DeJesus' mother, Nancy Ruiz, as saying people had started looking after each other's children. "It's a shame that a tragedy had to happen for me to really know my neighbors," Castro quotes her s saying. "Bless their hearts, they've been great."

On Monday, Castro told WKYC's Sara Shookman about the his father's arrest: "This is beyond comprehension ... I'm truly stunned right now."

Yamiche Alcindor and Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY. Contributing: William M. Welch, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

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