The amazing rescue of three long-missing Cleveland women

Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight are free after a decade locked in a house, and their rescuer, Charles Ramsey, is an instant folk hero

These undated handout photos provided by the FBI show Amanda Berry, left, and Georgina "Gina" Dejesus, who were rescued Monday along with a third woman, Michelle Knight.
(Image credit: AP Photo/FBI)

On Monday afternoon, a woman's hand shot out of a narrow opening in the front door of a Cleveland home and started waving frantically, the woman trapped inside yelling, "Help me! Help me!" A next-door neighbor, Charles Ramsey, and another man came over and kicked in the bottom part of the door, allowing 27-year-old Amanda Berry and a young girl to escape. (Watch Ramsey tell his story to local news above.)

Police arrived and found two other women — Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 30 — trapped in the house, and just like that, three decade-old missing persons cases were solved with an improbably happy ending. Law officers arrested the owner of the house, 52-year-old Ariel Castro, at a McDonald's down the street, and also took two of his brothers, age 50 and 54, into custody.

Ten years ago, in April 2003, Berry, then 16, disappeared after leaving her job at a Burger King. A year later, DeJesus, then 14, vanished while walking home from middle school. Knight, last seen leaving her cousin's house in 2002, was thought to have run away from home. "We've confirmed it's them," a Cleveland detective tells The Cleveland Plain Dealer. "They are alive and safe."

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Listen to Amanda Berry's 911 call:

According to The Plain Dealer, Ariel Castro has owned the house in Cleveland's Near West Side since 1992, and until last November was a school bus driver. He was arrested for alleged domestic violence in 1993, but was not indicted. Neighbors say that Castro usually entered his house through a back door, and he kept the house mostly dark, with shades (and in one case, boards) covering up the windows. But Charles Ramsey, who has lived next door to Castro for a year, says his neighbor was nice and acted normal. None of the neighbors knew any women were in the house.

Castro's uncle, Julio Castro, says his nephew used to play bass in a club owned by Gina DeJesus' uncle, and he believed Ariel knew the DeJesus family. In a bizarre twist to an already odd story, a neighborhood newspaper called the Plain Press ran an article on the kidnappings in June 2004 by an Ariel Castro — apparently the main suspect's son, who goes by Anthony and was a Bowling Green State University journalism student at the time. In the article, the young Castro interviews DeJesus' mother, Nancy Ruiz. Sara Shookman, of NBC's Cleveland affiliate WKYC TV, shared the son's 2004 article on Twitter:

See more

That's the official news about the abduction and rescue. "We have many unanswered questions regarding this case, and the investigation will be ongoing," Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said in a statement. Until the police or the women tell us more, here are some possible clues to the life in captivity from the local CBS station, WOIO:

See more
See more

In the meantime, the families of the three women are thrilled that their loved ones are alive and apparently in good health. In one sad note to the story: Berry's mom, Louwana Miller, died in March 2006, not knowing what happened to her daughter.

Berry's rescuer, Charles Ramsey, became something of an instant folk hero, thanks both to his actually not-that-heroic action (he only kicked in an unguarded door, after all) and to his colorful retelling of the rescue narrative.

Here, Ramsey gives a slightly different (but equally entertaining) account of the rescue to another local TV station:

And you can listen to Ramsey's 911 call, though be warned: It has some NSFW language:

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.