Kidnapping and rape charges were filed late last night against a man arrested after three women missing for about a decade were found alive at his home.
Homeowner Ariel Castro was charged while his brothers, Pedro and Onil Castro, remain in custody.
The three women were said to have been subjected to prolonged sexual and psychological abuse and suffered miscarriages, a city official said.
Councilman Brian Cummins said that many details remain unclear. He also said the women were kept in the basement and police have said they were apparently bound with ropes and chains. Mr Cummins said: “It sounds pretty gruesome.”
Amanda Berry, 27, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32, disappeared from the same street in Cleveland, Ohio, between 2002 and 2004. A dramatic escape by Ms Berry through the bottom of a screen door on Monday and her 911 call brought their 10-year ordeal to an end.
But police chief Michael McGrath said he was “absolutely” sure officers did everything they could to find them over the years and disputed claims that police had been called to the house where they were found, including an allegation that neighbours had reported seeing a naked woman crawling in the back yard.
Ms Berry arrived at her sister’s home yesterday along with her six-year-old daughter Jocelyn, who was born while she was held prisoner. Local residents and media massed for a glimpse of them. Her sister Beth Serrano thanked the community for their support.
Hundreds of people had gathered and cheered when Ms DeJesus finally arrived home.
Her aunt Sandra Ruiz said they
would be speaking publicly after “time to heal” and added: “There are not enough words to say or express the joy we feel for the return of our family member Gina, and now Amanda Berry, her daughter and Michelle Knight who is our family also.”
Neighbours say former school bus driver Ariel Castro had helped search for the girls when they disappeared.
Castro, 52, who owns the house where the women were found, was arrested along with his two brothers Pedro, 54, and Onil, 50 on Monday and officers charged him last night as the legal deadline neared.
Neighbours reported Castro was seen comforting one of the girl’s mothers during a search of the neighbourhood and a vigil while they were missing.
One Francisco Cruz, said he was with Castro the day investigators dug up a yard. Castro told Cruz, “They’re not going to find anyone there,” he recalled.
A relative of the three brothers said their family was “totally shocked” after hearing about the missing women.
Juan Alicea said the arrests of his wife’s brothers had left relatives “as blindsided as anyone else”.
Investigators also are talking with relatives of at least one other missing girl.
Cleveland officials said an internal review found that officers went to the house twice since 2000 on unrelated calls.
“Media reports of multiple calls to the Cleveland Police reporting suspicious activity and the mistreatment of women at 2207 Seymour are false,” city spokeswoman Maureen Harper said in a statement.
Two neighbours say, however, they called police to the Castro house on separate occasions.
Elsie Cintron, who lives three houses away, said her daughter saw a naked woman crawling in the backyard several years ago and called police.
Another Israel Lugo said he heard pounding on a door of the house in November 2011.
He claimed officers knocked but no one answered. “They walked to side of the house and then left,” he said.