|Kidnap Victim Amanda Berry Hailed as Hero|
|By RUSSELL GOLDMAN (@GoldmanRussell) , KEVIN DOLAK (@kdolak) , DAVID MUIR (@DavidMuir) and ANTHONY CASTELLANO (@AntCastellano)||May 7, 2013, 3:24 AM|
Police today lauded Amanda Berry as a "real hero" for breaking free after 10 years of captivity and rescuing herself and two other women held as prisoners in a Cleveland house.
Berry's bolt to freedom Monday night revealed a shocking case of three women abducted as long as 11 years ago and held in a modest house where neighbors and relatives never suspected anything was wrong.
Three brothers have been arrested in the case and are awaiting charges.
Police are unable to supply any details of what went on the house for past decade because they have yet to interview any of the victims or the suspects.
"We wanted to give them a day or two to decompress," Cleveland Police Deputy Chief Ed Tomba said, referring to the three women who emerged to freedom and their families after such extreme isolation.
Tomba said the women would be interviewed today and the suspects would be grilled on Wednesday.
The cops do know, however, that it was Amanda Berry's bold escape that set the women free.
"The real hero here is Amanda. She's the one that got this rolling. We're following her lead," Tomba said at a press conference this morning. "Without her we wouldn't be here today."
Berry broke through a door with the help of a neighbor and called police on Monday evening. Within minutes, police were at the modest two-story home on Seymour Avenue. There authorities found two other missing woman, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michele Knight, 32 who were also abducted in separate cases years ago, just miles from where they had each disappeared.
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A child, whom police said was Berry's daughter, was also discovered.
"I believe, out of the three of them, Amanda's the key," chief said.
Neighbors said they heard cries for help coming from a house just before 6 p.m., and when they went to investigate, helped kick open the door of the home to get the women out.
Berry, police said, "broke out of the lower part of screen door" to freedom. Frantically, she called 911. "I've been kidnapped, and I've been missing for 10 years," Berry told a 911 operator. "And I'm here. I'm free now."
"Due to Amanda's brave actions, these three women are alive today," Tomba said.
All three women were taken to Metro Health Medical Center on Monday night where they were examined and reunited with their families. Berry and DeJesus was discharged this morning.
Tomba said authorities asked the hospital to keep Knight at the facility for another day because they "had some trouble locating family for her."
FBI sources tell ABC News the victims are being cared for at an undisclosed location and an FBI agent has been assigned to each victim.
"This is the ultimate definition of survival and perseverance," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen Anthony. "Our prayers have been answered. The nightmare is over."
Police arrested three brothers in connection with the women's alleged kidnappings Ariel Castro, 52, Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50.
READ MORE: 3 Women Missing a Decade Found Alive
The house where the women were held belongs to Ariel Castro, a Cleveland school bus driver who was fired last year after being suspended several times. Police said they had twice been called to the house, once in 2000 and again in 2004, after the women had vanished.
Cops said Castro was questioned in 2004 about leaving a child on a school bus after completing his route and taking a lunch break. The incident was declared an accident and he was not charged with any crime.
In recent years they had dug up two yards in Cleveland looking for the women's remains.
Authorities said they had routinely received tips about Berry and DeJesus who disappeared as teenagers, but none had led them to the Castros. Berry went missing at 16 in 2003 while on her way home from a job at Burger King. DeJesus went missing when she was 14, a year later while walking home from school.
Knight vanished first in 2002, when she was 20 years old. She was considered a runaway and her case received less media attention than the other women.
Police said they were giving the women time with their families before beginning to question them about their time in captivity. A special team of investigators from the FBI, "child forensic examiners and victim-witness specialists" has been brought in to question them today.
Amanda Berry Saved Herself, Her Daughter and Two Other Women
Police said they "had not yet determined" whether the women were sexually abused while in captivity, but Tomba said it was "good possibility" that one of the suspects had fathered the child.
"As of right now there is no indication that it's bigger than our neighborhood," Tomba said when asked if there could be more women held in houses other than the one on Seymour Ave. He said investigators would search properties that belong to the other brothers Onil and Pedro Castro.
On Monday evening, neighbor Charles Ramsey said that he was eating McDonald's at home when he heard a girl screaming and begging for help.
"I look and I see this girl and she's just going nuts on the door so, I'm like, 'What's your problem? If you're stuck, just open the door.' She said 'I can't, you got it locked,'" he said.
Ramsey said that their attempt to pry the door open failed, so he and his neighbor kicked open the bottom.
"Luckily … it was aluminum, it was cheap," he said, "And she climbed out with her daughter. ... She went to my house, we called 911."