Three women who were missing for years, two of whom disappeared as teenagers, have been found alive in a house in Cleveland.
Ohio State police said on Monday the three were found just south of downtown, within a few kilometres of where they disappeared.
A neighbour in the community was alerted to their presence by screams from the house and rushed to the dwelling where he found the women, one of whom used his cell phone to call emergency-911, according to Cleveland police.
“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 is heard frantically telling a 911 emergency operator in a recording of the call, released by police and posted on the website of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
During the call, she gave the name of her alleged abductor and said he was “out of the house.”
When police arrived she told them there were two other captives in the home.
All three women have since been taken to a hospital, where they were reported to be in good medical condition, police said.
The three women were identified by police as Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight. Police said in a twitter posting that the three were “alive, talking, appeared to be okay.”
“All three women, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight, seem to be in good health,” Cleveland police said in a statement.
The details of the trauma they may have suffered in captivity were not yet known, but it appeared that at least one of the girls had borne a child during her captivity.
“A 52 year old Hispanic male has been placed under arrest regarding this incident.”
Police identified the suspect as Ariel Castro, 52, a bus driver for Cleveland public schools.
His uncle, Caesar Castro, who owns a grocery store on the same street, said his nephew owned the house where the women were found. He added that members of his family and the family of DeJesus “grew up together.”
“Everyone is shocked,” said the elder Castro. He said he had known his nephew to be “a good guy” and a musician who played the bass.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said, “I am thankful that Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight have been found alive.”
He added, “We have many unanswered questions regarding this case, and the investigation will be ongoing. Again, I am thankful that these three young ladies are found and alive.”
Berry was last seen at approximately 7:40 p.m. on April 21, 2003, after leaving work at a fast food restaurant that was just a few blocks from her home. She was 16 when she disappeared, according to the FBI.
Her mother, Louwanna Miller, passed away in March of 2006, according to US media reports.
DeJesus was 14 when she disappeared while walking home from school on April 2, 2004.
She was last seen at a pay telephone booth, sometime between 2:45 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. that day, according to the FBI.
The third woman, Michelle Knight, disappeared in 2000 at age 20, according to US media. She was last seen at a cousin’s house on August 23, 2002, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.