The story of the Cleveland kidnapping began in August of 2002, when 21 year old Michelle Knight left her home to visit her cousin, near the busy Lorain Avenue. She never returned home. Although her mother never gave up hope that she would be found, police found nothing that would lead them to her. Eight months later, 16 year old Amanda Berry would disappear from Lorain Avenue, as she walked home from her job at Burger King. The last to disappear was Georgina DeJesus, in April, 2004. She was only 14 years old when she disappeared from Lorain Avenue.
In the more than ten years since Knight’s kidnapping, no one had any clue that they were being held captive in a 4 bedroom house, less than three miles from where they were all abducted. Nothing seemed to connect them, other than their shared captivity. Alleged kidnapper, Ariel Castro, kept the girls chained in the basement at first. Later he did allow them to stay in separate rooms on the second floor. Castro, a school bus driver for the Cleveland Public Schools, was able to keep these women hidden from the public and family. During their captivity, they were only allowed outside twice in more than ten years.
The women were subjected to abuse and rape during their captivity. Berry became pregnant by her captor and Knight was forced to deliver the baby in a plastic children’s swimming pool. Without having any knowledge of childbirth, or child care, Berry and the other two women were able to care for the child. Upon their rescue, the authorities released that the child was 6 years old.
Castro controlled his captives with fear and threats. Often tricking them by pretending to leave, he would then punish them if they attempted to come out. Castro occasionally had family over for dinner, but played loud music and never let the family go upstairs. No one ever suspected he had three women hidden up there. Castro even attended vigils for the missing women. The youngest abductee, DeJesus was a good friend of his youngest daughter, Arlene. Arlene Castro was very active in the hunt for her good friend, even appearing on television asking for help in locating DeJesus. It was a shock to her when her own father was arrested and charged with abducting and raping, not only her friend, but two other women.
On May 6, 2013 Castro went out, leaving the three women and the child home, with the bigger inside door unlocked downstairs, although the outer storm door was locked. Berry took the opportunity to pound on the door and scream. Her screams were heard by neighbor, Charles Ramsey. Ramsey, and neighbor Angel Cordero, broke down the door and contacted the police. The police were shocked to find not only the two young girls who they had been searching for, but also Knight, whose case had been closed.
Ariel Castro is being held on $8 million bail. Currently the charges are four counts of kidnapping, and three charges of rape, however the prosecutor has indicated that further charges may be forthcoming. All three women, and the child, are being cared for and begin the long road to recovery from their nightmare.