CLEVELAND — Amanda Berry and two other women were isolated, held captive and raped in a house stocked with ropes and chains for nearly a decade, and she told police her escape two days ago was her first chance to break free.
Ohio authorities on Wednesday revealed some of the grisly details of the years Berry, now 27, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32, and a six-year old girl allegedly spent as prisoners of suspect Ariel Castro, who was charged with kidnapping and rape.
His brothers, who were originally arrested in the case, were not charged and had no knowledge of what Castro, 52, is accused of doing, according to police.
Castro, who owns the house where the women were found on Monday, was charged with three counts of rape, relating to the women, and four counts of kidnapping, said Cleveland city prosecutor Victor Perez at a news conference.
The charges came as police disclosed that the women, who were rescued after Berry fled with the help of a neighbor, had not seen any previous chances to escape in nearly ten years of captivity.
“The only opportunity, after interviewing the young ladies, to escape was the other day when Amanda escaped,” Cleveland Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba said at the news conference. “They don’t believe that they’ve been outside that home for the last 10 years respectively.”
Authorities said the women recalled leaving the house twice, only to go to the garage on the small lot, when they were disguised in wigs and hats.
Tomba said Berry, DeJesus and Knight had been kept separately in the house, where police have found ropes and chains.
“They were not in one room, but they did know each other and they did know each other was there,” he said.
Also rescued from the house was Berry’s daughter, who was born on Dec. 25, 2006, during her mother’s captivity, authorities said. A paternity test will be conducted to determine the girl’s father.
As authorities readied their case against Castro, Berry and DeJesus went to their families’ homes on Wednesday. Knight was in a Cleveland hospital where a spokeswoman said she was in good condition.
Berry and her daughter could be seen from an aerial television camera arriving in a convoy of vehicles at her sister’s house and going in the back door.
Before Monday evening, Berry had last been seen leaving her job at a fast-food restaurant the day before her 17th birthday in April 2003. Her disappearance as a teenager was widely publicized in the local media.
DeJesus was rushed into the home she had not seen in nine years, clenched in a tight embrace by her sister Mayra. DeJesus hid her face in a yellow hooded sweat-shirt but raised her hand in a thumbs-up sign to spectators chanting “Gina. Gina.”
Her mother Nancy DeJesus came outside after a little while.
“I want to thank everybody that believed,” she said. “Even the ones that doubted, I still want to thank them the most because they’re the ones that made me stronger, the ones that made me feel the most that my daughter was out there.”
Neither Berry nor DeJesus, who vanished while walking home from school at age 14 in 2004, spoke publicly. Knight was 20 when she disappeared in 2002.
Castro, who is not a suspect in any other cases, faced arraignment on Thursday morning, the prosecutor said.
Investigators took some 200 pieces of evidence from his house, which Tomba said was “in quite a bit of disarray,” but found no human remains on the site. Police were still searching a second house.
The three brothers were arrested on Monday evening within hours of the women’s escape. However, there was no evidence Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50, were involved, the prosecutor said.
The two brothers would be appearing in court on Thursday on unrelated outstanding misdemeanor warrants.
“There is nothing that leads us to believe that they were involved or had any knowledge of this, and that comes from statements of our victims, their statements and the brothers’ statements,” Perez said, adding, “Ariel would have kept everybody at a distance.”
Berry can be heard naming Ariel Castro as the man she was fleeing on the frantic emergency call she made to a 911 operator after a neighbor heard her scream and helped her break through a locked screen door.
Born in Puerto Rico, Ariel Castro played bass in Latin music bands in the area. Records show he was divorced more than a decade ago and his ex-wife had since died. He is known to have at least one adult daughter and son.
In 2005, Castro was named in a complaint of domestic violence in a custody dispute with his ex-wife that accused him of breaking her nose twice, knocking out her tooth, dislocating her shoulder twice and threatening to kill her and her daughters several times.
The complaint was eventually dismissed.
Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta, Barbara Goldberg; writing by Ellen Wulfhorst; editing by Paul Thomasch, Bernard Orr.