CLEVELAND (AP) — Three women who went missing separately about a decade ago, when they were in their teens or early 20s, were found alive Monday in a residential area just south of downtown, and a man was arrested.
One of the women told a 911 dispatcher the person who had taken her was gone, and she pleaded for police officers to come and get her, saying, “I’m free now.”
Cheering crowds gathered last night on the street near the home where police said Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight were found earlier in the day.
Police didn’t immediately provide any details of how the women were found but said they appeared to be in good health and had been taken to a hospital to be reunited with relatives and for evaluation.
On a recorded 911 call Monday, Berry said she had been taken by someone and pleaded for police officers to arrive at the home on Cleveland’s west side before he returned.
Berry disappeared at age 16 on April 21, 2003, when she called her sister to say she was getting a ride home from her job at a Burger King. DeJesus went missing at age 14 on her way home from school about a year later. They were found just a few miles from where they had gone missing.
Police said Knight was 20 when she went missing around 2000.
Police said a 52-year-old man was arrested. There was no immediate word on charges.
Loved ones said they hadn’t given up hope of seeing the women again. Among them was Kayla Rogers, a childhood friend of DeJesus.
“I’ve been praying, never forgot about her, ever,” Rogers told The Plain Dealer newspaper. “This is amazing. This is a celebration. I’m so happy. I just want to see her walk out of those doors so I can hug her.”
Berry’s cousin Tasheena Mitchell told the newspaper she couldn’t wait to have Berry in her arms.
“I’m going to hold her, and I’m going to squeeze her and I probably won’t let her go,” she said.
Berry’s mother, Louwana Miller, who had been hospitalized for months with pancreatitis and other ailments, died in March 2006. She had spent the previous three years looking for her daughter, whose disappearance took a toll as her health steadily deteriorated, family and friends said.