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Amanda Berry, Cleveland Ohio kidnapping victim, returns home

11:43 AM, May 8, 2013   |    comments
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Photo Gallery: 3 Ohio women found alive after disappearing 10 years ago

 

CLEVELAND (USA TODAY) -- For the first time in almost 10 years, Amanda Berry -- accompanied by a 6-year-old daughter fathered by her captor -- returned Wednesday to her sister's home, which was covered with balloons, flowers, teddy bears and a huge sign proclaiming : "Welcome home, Amanda."

It was Berry's first sight of the modest, two-story home since she disappeared on April 21, 2003 - a day before her 17th birthday - after telling her sister she was getting a ride home from her job at a Burger King.

Berry's sister, Beth Serrano, spoke briefly to reporters in front of the house to thank the public and the media for their support and to request privacy for the family "until we are ready to make a statement."

"We are elated, this is a happy ending," she said.

Berry, and two other women, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, were freed Monday after being held captive for almost a decade. Three suspects have been arrested in connection with their abduction.Another sign read: "Wish it, dream it, do it."

Berry, who arrived home in a convoy escorted by police, has been with her family at an undisclosed location since her release. In a conversation with her grandmother in Tennessee, which reporters observed, Amanda said the 6-year-old was her daughter, born on Christmas day.

"What a relief to us all as a community that they are finally home and thank God that they are alive," said Cleveland police Cmdr. Thomas McCartney, who cautioned the news media to be "respectful" and remain on the opposite curb from the home.

Police have said they were delaying any intense debriefing ofthe victims until they could be adjusted to their unexpected freedom.

Police Chief Michael McGrath said Wednesday that the three victims, during their ordeal, had been "bound and there were chains and ropes in the hall."

Police spokesman Sammy Morris also confirmed that the restraints were among evidence collected by law enforcement officials who've been combing through the house.

McGrath told NBC's Savannah Guthrie that the three women's physical condition was "very good considering the circumstances." They were hospitalized after their rescue. Berry and DeJesus were later released and reunited with their families away from the news media. CNN reports Knight was still hospitalized Wednesday morning.

McGrath said that the suspects in the case -- three brothers -- are "talking" but would not say if they have confessed to the alleged abduction and years of sexual abuse of the three women.

Police have released little information about Ariel Castro, a former school bus driver and erstwhile musician whose two-story, clapboard Seymour Avenue home appears to be the makeshift prison where the three women were kept.

Castro, 52, is being held on suspicion of rape and kidnapping, as are brothers Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50.

Police Chief McGrath indicated that the three would be officially charged on Wednesday.

One of three brothers is believed to have fathered the 6-year-old girl found at the home with Berry, now 27, according to Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba.

Berry, DeJesus and Knight were freed on Monday after a neighbor, alerted to Berry's screams, rushed over to the house, and kicked in the lower part of the door. Berry then called 911.

While two of the victims are staying at "safe houses" away from the media, reporters were on hand Tuesday at the Elizabethton, Tenn., home of Amanda Berry's grandmother, Fern Gentry, when she spoke to her granddaughter for the first since since her rescue.

Gentry asked Berry about the young girl seen in a photo with her in the hospital on Monday. Berry replied: "Yes, that's mine. Born on Christmas."

The Castro brothers allegedly forced all three women to have sex, resulting in up to five pregnancies, according to a report by Cleveland's WKYC-TV. The station, quoting unnamed law enforcement sources, reported that the Castros also beat the women while they were pregnant, with several fetuses not surviving. Police did not publicly confirm the report.

In addition, Khalid Samad, a former assistant safety director for the city, said law enforcement officials told him that the women were beaten while pregnant, with several miscarrying, and that a dungeon of sorts with chains was in the home. Samad, who works with a crime prevention non-profit group, said he saw the women at the hospital Monday night. His description and other sourced information was not commented upon publicly by officials Tuesday night.

Investigators from the FBI, Cleveland Police and the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department are poring over Ariel Castro's West Cleveland home - located in a working class neighborhood less than a mile from where the victims were abducted. Officials dressed in white-paper body suits and blue gloves emerged periodically from the backyard Tuesday afternoon. Investigators have yet to excavate Castro's yard.

"They are going through the place with a fine-tooth comb," Cleveland Police Sgt. Sammy Morris said.

Berry disappeared in disappeared in 2003. DeJesus, then 14, went missing in 2004 on her way home from school. Knight, then 20, disappeared in August 2002. She was last seen at her cousin's home.

She was rescued on Monday when her screams alerted a neighbor, Charles Ramsey, who helped her, and her daughter, escape by kicking out the lower part of the door.

Berry, dressed in pajamas and sandals, tearfully used a borrowed cellphone to call 911. "I've been kidnapped and I've been missing for 10 years and I'm freed now," Berry told the dispatcher.

Police arrived two minutes later and rescued Knight and DeJesus.

More stories on the Ohio kidnappings:

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