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Cleveland Kidnappings: Horrors Began With Offers Of Rides

Photo caption:

Photo by David Maxwell

The house at 2207 Seymour Ave. in Cleveland where three young women who had been missing for about a decade were discovered on Monday. With help from a neighbor, victim Amanda Berry was able to escape by breaking through the front door.

The three young women who were missing for about a decade before being rescued on Monday from a home in Cleveland where they say they were chained, tortured and sexually assaulted, have given police similar accounts about how their long nightmares began.

In a police report that NPR has been shown, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight are quoted as saying that suspect Ariel Castro's approach was simple. On Morning Edition, NPR's Cheryl Corley said it's alleged that:

"Nearly 10 years ago, [Castro] told then 14-year-old DeJesus he'd drop her off at his house so she could meet with his daughter. ... He lured Amanda Berry [in 2003] by telling her his son worked at the same restaurant she did. He offered Michelle Knight a ride home [in 2002]."

As Cheryl adds, all three -- according to their accounts -- "would end up chained in the basement of the house before living later on the second floor. They were allegedly forced to have sex with Castro. One victim told police she became pregnant several times but Castro punched her in the stomach so she would miscarry. Amanda Berry give birth to a daughter who is now six. Authorities will give the child a paternity test to confirm Castro is the father."

The women say they were almost never allowed outside. Martin Flask, Cleveland's public safety director, said Wednesday that "in the last decade, they've only known themselves to be outside of the home on two separate occasions and that was only briefly."

The Cleveland Plain Dealer says that the police report also states "that Berry's 6-year-old daughter was born in a small inflatable swimming pool during the time the three women were held in captivity, [a Cleveland police] source said. The initial report says Castro forced Knight to deliver Berry's baby. He threatened to kill Knight if the baby did not survive the birth, the source said."

As we reported Wednesday, prosecutors say Castro is being charged with four counts of kidnapping (one for each of the three women and another for Berry's daughter) and three counts of rape. Castro, 52, is due in court later today.

The suspect's brothers Pedro and Onil, who were taken into custody with him on Monday, will not face any criminal charges, as WCPN reports. According to the Plain Dealer, "Victor Perez, the chief assistant city prosecutor, said there was no evidence linking Onil and Pedro Castro to the [alleged] torture that took place at their brother's home."

Berry and DeJesus are now at relatives' homes in Cleveland. Knight remains in a hospital, where she's said to be in good condition.

We'll watch for more news and update as warranted.

Related NPR posts and stories:

-- Another Neighbor Of Rescued Cleveland Women Says He Helped

-- Specially Trained FBI Agents Will Help Kidnapped Women Heal

-- The Missing Women Were Seemingly In Plain Sight

Note: As happens when stories such as this are developing, there will likely be reports that turn out to be mistaken. We will focus on news being reported by NPR, other news outlets with expertise, and statements from authorities who are in a position to know what's going on. And if some of that information turns out to be wrong, we'll explain.

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