The ordeal involving the three missing women found in a home in a quiet Cleveland neighborhood on Monday began nearly eleven years ago with the disappearance of Michelle Knight, then 18, who was last seen on August 23, 2002 at a cousin’s house. Seven months later, Amanda Berry, then 17, disappeared on April 21, 2003 from her part-time job at a Burger King. Nearly a year later, on April 4, 2004, Georgina DeJesus also turned up missing when she failed to come home from school.
August 23, 2002
- Michelle Knight disappears after last being seen at the home of her cousin on Cleveland’s west side. In an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, her grandmother Deborah said she believed that she left on her own out of anger that her son had been removed from her custody.
- Her mother Barbara, even after moving out of state and after the police had given up the search, often returned to the neighborhood to post fliers in the hope of finding Knight.
April 21, 2003
- Amanda Berry goes to work as normal at her job at a Cleveland Burger King and leaves at about 7:30 p.m., police reported, getting into a car with an unidentified driver.
- She last spoke to her sister at about 7:30, telling her, “I’ve got a ride, I’ll call you back.”
- The disappearance first appears as a small blurb in Cleveland local press. The FBI initially believes it to be a runaway case.
April 28, 2003
- An unidentified person uses Amanda Berry’s cellphone to call her mother, Louwana Miller, leading the FBI to believe that she was not a runaway.
- FBI special agent Robert Hawk said the caller told Miller: “I have Amanda. She’s fine and will be coming home in a couple of days.” When she asked to speak to her, he hangs up.
- Authorities cannot determine whether or not it was a hoax. Miller believes it could have been a prank since the call came the same day her photo was shown on television.
- Police knock on the door of Ariel Castro’s home in a west Cleveland neighborhood about 3 miles from the area where Knight and Berry had last been seen. No one answers the door.
- Child welfare officials told police that Castro, a school bus driver, had left a child on a bus without supervision.
- When police did speak to him, they found no criminal intent.
April 4, 2004
- Seventh grader Gina DeJesus, 14, goes missing after she fails to come home from Wilbur Wright Middle School, also on Cleveland’s west side.
- Friends and family said she decided that day to walk home.
- “I gave her the $1.25 to catch the bus because it was cold outside,” her mother, Nancy Ruiz told the Plain Dealer at the time, explaining that she may have walked home and used the money for snacks.
- FBI agent Timothy Kolonick, who had already been working on the Berry case, does not know if the two cases are connected or not.
June 1, 2004
- Hundreds of calls come in, with possible clues as to the whereabouts of DeJesus, but none lead to any clues.
- Authorities offer a $20,000 reward for information that leads to finding her.
- Her father, Felix had been accused of breaking down the door of an alleged sexual predator in search for his child. He denied involvement.
April 23, 2005
- Nearly two years after her daughter’s disappearance, Louwana Miller holds a vigil and march on the same route that her daughter would have taken home.
- She had earlier appeared on The Montel Williams Show where she was told by psychic Sylvia Browne that her daughter was dead.
- “I still don’t want to believe it,” she said later. “I want to have hope but . . . what else is there?”
March 2, 2006
- Louwana Miller dies of heart failure, her health having deteriorated in the years following her daughter Amanda Berry’s disappearance.
September 23, 2006
- Police search a home on Cleveland’s west side belonging to Matthew Hurayt, 35, a registered sexual predator. A tip had come in that DeJesus’ body was buried under the house.
- Along with Hurayt, John McDonough, who also lives at the residence, are held on suspicion of aggravated murder.
- The search comes up empty and the two men are released by police.
April 13, 2009
- The FBI begins to believe the disappearance of Berry, DeJesus, and a third girl, Ashley Nicole Summers, 14, is the work of one person, last seen July 6, 2007.
September 11, 2009
- Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin sheriffs rule out the possibility that a body discovered there a year earlier was that of Amanda Berry after DNA tests come back negative.
July 25, 2012
- Acting on a tip from Robert Wolford, who was in prison for manslaughter, a Cleveland lot is dug up in search for Berry, Hunt and Summers.
- After an 18 hour hunt, officials come up empty handed and the search is called off.
May 6, 2013
- A decade after their disappearances, Berry, now 27, DeJesus, now 23, and Knight, now 32, are each found in a home on Cleveland’s west side after a frantic 911 call to police.
- The women were found alive in a home owned by Castro who police had queried years earlier.
- A 6-year-old child was also found in the home and is believed to be Berry’s daughter.
- Their escape was aided by neighbor Charles Ramsey, who says he heard Berry yelling from inside Castro’s house and helped break down a door to let her and the others out.
- Castro, 52, and his brothers Pedro, 54, and Onil, 50 were arrested and taken into police custody.
- Authorities still hold out hope that Summers, who would now be 22, is still alive. Her disappearance is still believed to be connected to the other cases.