CLEVELAND — 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 three people were arrested.
One of the women told a 911 dispatcher that 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 Monday night on the street near the home where police said Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight were found earlier in the day.
Police did not 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 to be evaluated. They said a 6-year-old also was found in the home.
On a recorded 911 call Monday, Berry said: “I’m Amanda Berry. I’ve been on the news for the last 10 years.”
She said she had been taken by someone and begged for police officers to arrive at the home on Cleveland’s west side before he returned. “I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years,” she told the dispatcher. “And I’m here. I’m free now.”
Berry disappeared at age 16 on April 21, 2003, after 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 went missing in 2002 and is 32 now. They did not provide current ages for the other two women.
Police said a 52-year-old man was among those arrested. They released no names and gave no details about the others arrested or what charges they might face.
Dozens of police officers and sheriff’s deputies remained at the scene late Monday awaiting a warrant to search the building where the women and the child were found.
Loved ones said they had not given up hope of seeing the women again.
“I’ve been praying. Never forgot about her, ever,” Kayla Rogers, a childhood friend of DeJesus’s, 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 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.