The jubilation over the freeing of three women and a girl from their alleged captivity in Cleveland is quickly giving way to a serious question: Did Cleveland police miss clues?
How could Amanda Berry, Georgina DeJesus and Michelle Knight remain kidnapped for about decade in a densely populated area within a few miles of where each of them disappeared?
The women were freed this week with the help of a neighbor. The man who lived in the home where the alleged captives were found, Ariel Castro, is expected to be charged Wednesday, along with his two brothers.
Neighbors say they had called police about suspicious activity at the home in the past.
Cleveland police deny that, issuing a statement Wednesday saying that a “thorough review of police communications records” show no such calls ever took place.
Police say they went to the address once in 2000, before the alleged kidnappings, when Castro reported a fight outside his home, and in 2004, after two of the three women had disappeared. The latter visit was unrelated to the kidnappings, police said. It was at the request of child services to investigate a complaint that Castro left a child alone on a bus during the time he worked as a bus driver. No one answered at the home, and investigators later interviewed him elsewhere, police say.
Neighbors say they reported suspicious activity
Neighbor Nina Samoylicz says that two years ago, she and her friends saw a naked woman in the backyard of Castro’s home. They said something to her and Castro “told her to get down. So we said something to him. He told her to get in the house,” and then he went inside as well, Samoylicz said.
“We called the cops,” she says. “They thought we were playing and joking, they didn’t believe us.”
Within a week or two, tarps went up, shielding the backyard from onlookers, she said.
Samoylicz also said she saw a girl who would sit looking out an open window until Castro would come along and board it back up. Sometimes the girl played at a nearby park by herself. “My cousin one day said something to her. She said she’s waiting for her dad and then she pointed to (Castro). And she ran up to him, and gave him a hug, and they left.”
Police say the girl is Berry’s daughter.
Another neighbor, Israel Lugo, says he called police in 2011 when he heard yelling in the Castro home. Officers left when no one answered the door, Lugo says.
And news reports say another neighbor called police after seeing a woman through an attic window of the home, which Castro never allowed neighbors to enter.
Still, police apparently had no clue what was going on inside his home.
“We continue to ask the community to send tips and information — to say something if you see something. We cannot do this alone,” police said in a statement after the women were freed.
Some people in the neighborhood, including Charles Ramsey, the man who helped free the alleged captives, say they don’t recall seeing anything suspicious at Castro’s home.
But legal analysts are taking the police to task.
If someone really heard screaming and police simply knocked on the door and left without further investigation, then “law enforcement clearly dropped the ball,” attorney Lisa Bloom said on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Live.”
“It was almost like a Keystone Cops situation,” prominent attorney Mark Geragos added.
“There’s got to be much more to this story. Given my experience in handling criminal cases, I can’t believe that we’re not going to find in the days ahead or the weeks ahead much more that unravels about this that blows your mind.”
By Josh Levs and Tory Dunnan
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