The suspects in the Cleveland kidnapping are expected to be charged today as the investigation into their imprisonment for a decade continues.
Details emerges as investigators spoke to local media, revealing that the women were tied up in the house at 2207 Seymour Avenue. "We have confirmation that they were bound, and there were chains and ropes in the home,” said Michael McGrath, chief of Cleveland Police. The three women, he added, "were released out in the backyard once in a while, I believe".
Amanda Berry disappeared on her way back from work, the day before she turned 17.
Early on, her mother, Louwana Miller, was teased by glimpses of hope. Days after Amanda’s disappearance, a man using her phone called the family and told them: “I have Amanda. She’s fine and will be coming home in a couple of days.” Ms Miller died from heart failure in February 2006, her daughter’s whereabouts still a mystery.
She had done her utmost to keep the case in the public eye, appearing on TV and holding annual vigils on her daughter’s birthday. She even turned to a psychic on The Montel Williams Show in 2004, who told her: “She’s not alive, honey. She’s not the type who wouldn’t call.” Friends claimed it was this encounter that finally crushed her. Thirteen months later she was hospitalised with pancreatitis, three months after that she, too, was gone. “She died of a broken heart,” Dona Brady, a city councillor who knew the family, said.
The Berry case and that of Gina DeJesus were familiar to anyone who lived on Cleveland’s West Side.
Gina’s father, Felix, was similarly haunted after his 14-year-old daughter vanished, returning home night after night to conduct his own search, refusing to believe she could not be found and raging at a system that he believed had done too little to help.
Both families would eventually be told that the police were searching for their loved ones’ remains. Last summer a prison inmate falsely claimed Amanda Berry was buried under a vacant Cleveland lot; Felix DeJesus was told in 2006 that Gina’s body was thought to be hidden under a sex offender’s garage.
The case of Michelle Knight never had quite the same resonance; she was older when she went missing and her grandmother was quoted by local media saying that she believed Ms Knight had run away. But her mother, Barbara, continued to search, handing out flyers on the West Side even after she had moved away to Florida.
Cleveland is the primarily blue-collar town with blue-leaning voters that helped secure Ohio for Barack Obama during the 2012 presidential election. While the West Side is poor, the city’s East Side is studded with huge homes, a testament to Cleveland’s history of prosperity through manufacturing and, latterly, finance. But crime is a problem – although Cleveland is America’s 47th biggest city by population, it is the country’s 11th worst on the crime charts. Two of its central neighbourhoods were among ABC’s 25 most dangerous places to live in a 2010 national survey. But like many downtrodden neighbourhoods, the West Side remains a close community. One man, John, who was living there when the three victims disappeared, told the BBC: “This is a miracle. I recall the ominous pall that fell over this tight-knit community when... Amanda and Gina went missing. It was assumed that a serial killer was possibly running amok.”
Another Cleveland resident, Tristan, said: “I was only 13 or 14 when I heard about these girls disappearing. Every year or so the families would go on the news and beg for information. It’s sad that one of their mothers died a few years ago, never knowing they would be found alive.”