‘I’m Free Now': The 911 Call That Led to Cleveland’s Dramatic Escape

Three women finally escaped Monday evening after about a decade of living in captivity in a home near downtown Cleveland.

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Three women who had been missing for about a decade were finally found alive Monday evening in a home near downtown Cleveland. Police are trying to figure out how Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight stayed hidden for so long. Police arrested three suspects, including Ariel Castro, the owner of the house, and his brothers Pedro Castro and Oneil Castro. TIME is no longer updating this page regularly, but keep visiting TIME.com’s homepage for ongoing coverage of the Cleveland abduction case.

7:30p.m.: Pedro Castro, one of the brothers arrested Monday in the suspected abduction of three Cleveland women, appeared on a local news video by Fox 8 Cleveland last year saying, “That’s a waste of money,” while sitting on the porch of an unidentified building. The comments, originally published on July 19, 2012, were made in reference to a two-day excavation of an empty lot in search for Amanda Berry’s body, which the city undertook based on a tip. The lot was located at West 30th Street and Wade Avenue, just three blocks from the home owned by Pedro’s brother, Ariel Castro. Police ended the dig after two days when they failed to find Berry’s remains.

6:00 p.m.: Suspect Ariel Castro may have a history of abusive behavior; he was accused of “attacking” his former wife Grimilda Figueroa, according to a 2005 filing in Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported this afternoon. The document said she endured “two broken noses, broken ribs, a knocked-out tooth, a blood clot on the brain and two dislocated shoulders.”

4:20 p.m.: The office of Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath just published a statement on its website explaining that a “search warrant is currently being executed” at suspect Ariel Castro’s home — where the three women were allegedly being held captive — “with other locations pending.”

4:10 p.m.: Julio Castro, the uncle of kidnapping suspect Ariel Castro, told CNN his nephew had “isolated himself from his extended family” after his father died in 2004. While Julio had not spoken to Ariel in years — even though they live half a block away from each other —  he told CNN en Español that he could not believe his nephew had anything to do with the abduction: “perhaps, he was the type of person who was living two lives.”

3:55 p.m.:  While Charles Ramsey — the neighbor who helped the three women escape — said he never noticed any suspicious activity at the suspect’s house, neighbor Israel Lugo recalls hearing “pounding” on the doors of Castro’s home and seeing plastic bags covering the windows in November 2011, according to the Associated Press. Lugo said police “walked to the side of the house and then left.” Elsie Cintron, who also lives nearby, told the AP she called the police after seeing a “naked” woman crawling on her hands and knees in the backyard “several years ago.”

2:45 p.m.: Reuters reports that Children and Family Services officials did show up at the suspect Ariel Castro’s home in January 2004 — the same one where the three women were found last night, according to Cleveland Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba. Authorities had decided to visit the house after Castro reportedly left a child on a school bus, but no one was home.

1:25 p.m.: Anthony Castro, a banker living in Columbus and the son of alleged kidnapper Ariel Castro, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that he was shocked to learn about his father’s arrest and the suspected kidnapping: “I can express nothing but shame for our family that it involved any one of us…It’s just a nightmare.” When he was a journalism student in 2004, the suspect’s son wrote an article for the Cleveland Plain Press about the heightened fears among neighborhood parents after the disappearance of Gina DeJesus – and he even interviewed her mother, the Plain Dealer and The New York Times report. The younger Castro wrote the piece under the byline “Ariel Castro” because his full name is Ariel Anthony Castro, the Plain Dealer points out.

12:45 p.m.: Jaycee Dugard, who was kidnapped at a bus stop at age 11 and held hostage for 18 years, says the Cleveland women need time to “heal” in a short statement: “This isn’t who they are. It is only what happened to them. The human spirit is incredibly resilient.” Read the full text on NBC Nightly News’s Tumblr. Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted at 14 and released nine months later, also believed the victims would move on and stressed the importance of public vigilance, the AP reports.

Three women finally escaped Monday evening after about a decade of living in captivity in a home near downtown Cleveland. This morning, police are trying to figure out why the women were abducted and how they could have stayed under the radar for so long, CNN reports.

Authorities have identified the women as Amanda Berry, 27, who vanished after finishing a shift at Burger King just before her 17th birthday on April 21, 2003; Gina DeJesus, who went missing in 2004 at 14 years old; and Michelle Knight, 32, who disappeared in 2002 at 21 years old. There was also a six-year-old girl, who is reportedly Berry’s daughter.

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The women were taken to Cleveland’s Metro Health Medical Center for medical attention, but have emerged without serious physical injuries, according to law enforcement officials. The New York Times reports police have arrested three suspects: Ariel Castro, a 52-year-old former school bus driver and owner of the home, plus two brothers Pedro Castro, 54, and Oneil Castro, 50.

The trio was discovered when Berry made a panicked call to a 911 from a neighbor’s house. “I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years, and I’m here. I’m free now,” she says, in the recording above. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s transcript of the call, Berry desperately urges police to come quickly before her alleged captor returned:

Dispatcher: Yeah. Talk to the police when they get there.
Berry: OK. Are they on their way right now? I need them now.
Dispatcher: We’re going to send them as soon as we get a car open.
Berry: No. I need them now, before he gets back.
Dispatcher: All right. We’re sending them, OK?
Berry: OK. I mean like …
Dispatcher: Who’s the guy you’re trying. … Who’s the guy who went out?
Berry: Uh. His name is Ariel Castro.
Dispatcher: How old is he?
Berry: He’s like 52.
Dispatcher: All right …
Berry: I’m Amanda Berry. I’ve been on the news for the last 10 years.

Click here for the full transcript on the newspaper’s website.

A neighbor Charles Ramsey helped the women escape. He heard screaming and thought there was a domestic violence dispute going on. That’s when he saw Berry near a door, which was only cracked open enough for a hand to fit through, AP reports. Ramsey told local TV reporters: “I heard screaming. I’m eating my McDonald’s. I come outside. I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of a house.” Ramsey never noticed anything suspicious about the owner’s behavior. “You look and you look away because he’s not doing nothing but the average stuff,” Ramsey says in the clip below. “There’s nothing exciting about him – until today.”

Juan Perez, who lives two doors down from Castro, told ABC News’s World News Now that he also never suspected anything was wrong, and just described the suspect as “charismatic” and a “regular guy”:

5 comments
kmacdonald
kmacdonald

I understand that certain questions need to be asked in order to obtain as much information for the police to do their job.  Agreed.  Here is my issue with this whole thing.   First of all can this moron dispatcher sound any more unsympathetic?  It's like he couldn't get off the phone fast enough and he actually started to sound irritated.   This leads to my second comment.  THE IDIOT NEVER SHOULD HAVE HUNG UP ON HER IN THE FIRST PLACE.  HE SHOULD HAVE STAYED ON THE LINE UNTIL THE POLICE ARRIVED!!!    You could clearly hear the the fear, distress and anguish in this poor girls voice.  This has nothing to do with protocol or obtaining enough information and EVERYTHING to do with common sense.  Thank goodness there was no snafu and they were rescued in time.  May God bless these beautiful brave women and give them the strength to heal. 

JLeach
JLeach

@antonmarq Also as a person who studied dispatch (Emergency Communications and Response) I can also say this is true. They need a description in case so they can be on the look out. Police require as much description as possible. And typically dispatchers read off of protocols, they don't just ask random questions. 

antonmarq
antonmarq

After listening to that 911 call, I'm not sure why they haven't fired the agent who received the call. never heard such dumb questions, "How old" or "What's he wearing?". Hello, the person wants a COP NOW. Had I been her supervisor, she would be GONE. 

BruceButkis
BruceButkis

@antonmarq I think what you're not realizing is the operator had already dispatched out to the police. Those are the pertinent questions that can be extremely important for officials to have . What if he had returned to the scene before help arrived and had been armed? Or that got there and there was no sign of anyone? Don't you think thats the most important question to ask after the location? Just curious if you were her supervisor what would you have suggested the operator ask?

Transplant
Transplant

As an ex-911 operator, these questions are relevant.  If the caller is naming a subject of a complaint, the police are going to want to know his/her description, so they can be on the lookout.