- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Cleveland police in 2004 knocked on the door of the house where three women were being held captive, but nobody answered, said a city spokesman at Tuesday’s press conference on the abduction and rescue of teens taken nearly 10 years ago.

The teens — now grown women — disappeared on three separate dates. Amanda Berry, now 27, vanished in April 2003 at the age of 16. Georgina “Gina” DeJesus, now 23, disappeared in April 2004 at the age of 14. Michelle Knight, now 30, vanished in August 2002 at the age of 19. Investigators spent years searching for them, Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath said Tuesday, following leads and tracking clues to uncover information that could clarify their disappearance.

The mystery of their disappearance was solved in part on Monday, when a man — now dubbed a hero — heard screaming coming from the home of his quiet neighbor and approached to investigate. A panicked voice from inside begged for help. The man broke down the door, and a woman identified herself as Amanda Berry, the girl who had disappeared a decade ago.

Ms. Berry then called 9-1-1 for help to rescue her two housemates, Ms. DeJesus and Ms. Knight.

Police responded and, within minutes, recovered the three women and a 6-year-old child and transported them to the hospital. On Tuesday, the three were released and allowed to return to their homes, Fox News reported.

“Due to Amanda’s brave actions, these three women are alive today,” Chief McGrath said.

SEE ALSO: Charles Ramsey: Hero to three Cleveland kidnap victims

Police, meanwhile, arrested three: Ariel Castro, 52, who lived at the home where the women were held hostage, and his two brothers, aged 50 and 54. The two brothers lived elsewhere.

Neighbors interviewed on Fox News said they knew and associated with Ariel Castro, but never suspected anything criminal at the house. He kept his windows boarded — but then again, so did several other homeowners in the neighborhood, one said, on Fox News.

But police were called to the home on two prior occasions. They were called in 2000 to respond to a fight in the street in front of the home, and they were called a few years later — at a time when the women were being held hostage.

Ariel Castro worked as a bus driver, and in 2004, Cleveland police knocked on his door in relation to a complaint from the city’s child protective services agency about his failure to safely transport a student home.

“He left a child on the bus,” Chief McGrath said. “Cleveland police knocked on the door but didn’t make any contact with anyone in the home.”

Police didn’t find any evidence of criminal activity at the house, however.

SEE ALSO: Report: 5 pregnancies may have occurred during Cleveland abductions

City officials said on Tuesday the investigation was in the early stages and it would take several days to sift through all the information.

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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