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3 missing Ohio women raised no eyebrows for decade

Three Ohio women newly freed from a decade-long kidnapping ordeal huddled privately with loved ones on Tuesday as police scoured the Cleveland house where the captives had been held, seeking clues to how their confinement went unnoticed for so long.

Three brothers were arrested as suspects shortly after Monday evening’s rescue of the women and are expected to be formally charged soon. One of them, Ariel Castro, a former school bus driver and owner of the house, was thought to live there alone.

Mayor Frank Johnson confirmed that child welfare officials had paid a visit to the house in early 2004 because Castro was reported to have left a child on a school bus while he stopped for lunch at a fast-food restaurant. But the ensuing inquiry found no criminal intent, officials said.

Otherwise, the mayor denied that authorities overlooked or failed to respond to suspicious activity at the two-story home since any of the three victims were reported as missing.

The women, believed to have been abducted separately from the surrounding neighbourhood and held prisoner for years, were foundalive together by a neighbour alerted by cries for help coming from the house.

He broke through the door to rescue one of the women, Amanda Berry, whose 2003 disappearance as a teenager was widely publicized in the local media, and helped her place a frantic emergency call to authorities.

‘Help me! I’m Amanda Berry. ... I’ve been kidnapped and I’ve been missing for 10 years and I’m here. I’m free now,’ Berry can be heard saying in a recording of the call released by police.

Found with Berry, now 27, was her 6-year-old daughter, conceived and born during her captivity, and two other women - Gina DeJesus, 23, who vanished at age 14 in 2004, and Michelle Knight, 32, who was 20 years old when she went missing in 2002.

Ariel Castro, 52, fired from his job last November after school officials cited him for a ‘lack of judgment,’ was arrested almost immediately. Two brothers, Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Casto, 50, were taken into custody a short time later.

Police have not said what role each man is suspected of playing in the case, but Berry named Ariel Castro in her 911 call as the man from whom she was trying to escape.Initial euphoria in Cleveland’s West Side over the women’s rescue soon gave way to questions about why their captivity went undetected, despite what neighbours said were a number of suspicious or disturbing incidents at the house in the low-income community.

‘We didn’t search hard enough. She was right under our nose the whole time,’ said Angel Arroyo, a church pastor who had handed out flyers of DeJesus in the neighbourhood where she ultimately surfaced.

Aside from the school bus incident in 2004, city officials said a database search found no records of calls to the house.
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