CLEVELAND (AP) - Cleveland officials held a news conference Tuesday morning to provide more details in the case of three women who went missing about 10 years ago and were found safe Monday.
“The nightmare is over,” FBI special agent Stephen Anthony said.
Police say Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were tied up at the house and held there since they were in their teens or early 20s. Knight disappeared in 2002, Berry in 2003 and DeJesus about a year after that.
A frantic 911 call led police to the house near downtown Cleveland, where the three women and a 6-year-old child were found Monday.
AUDIO | 911 call from Amanda Berry http://bit.ly/108j3c7
Cleveland police Deputy Chief Ed Tomba says the girl is believed to be Amanda Berry's daughter. He declined to say who the father was or where the child was born.
Police say the women were tied up at the house and held there since they were in their teens or early 20s. Knight disappeared in 2002, Berry in 2003 and DeJesus about a year after that.
TIMELINE | Key events in the missing persons cases http://bit.ly/15npFrQ
Authorities later arrested three brothers, ages 50 to 54. One of them, former school bus driver Ariel Castro, owned the home, situated in a neighborhood dotted with boarded-up homes. No immediate charges were brought against them.
Authorities would not say whether the women were restrained inside the house or if any of them had been sexually assaulted. Police said they were trying to be delicate in their questioning of the women, given the trauma they endured.
Investigators also said Tuesday that they had no record of any tips or calls about criminal activity at the house in the years after the victims vanished, but that they were still checking their records.
However, two neighbors said they were alarmed enough by what they saw at the house to call police on two occasions.
Elsie Cintron, who lives three houses away, said her daughter once saw a naked woman crawling on her hands and knees in the backyard several years ago and called police. "But they didn't take it seriously," she said.
Another neighbor, Israel Lugo, said he heard pounding on some of the doors of Castro's house, which had plastic bags on the windows, in November 2011. Lugo said officers knocked on the front door, but no one answered. "They walked to side of the house and then left," he said.
Neighbors also said they would see Castro sometimes walking a little girl to a neighborhood playground. And Cintron said she once saw a little girl looking out of the attic window of the house.
The three women appeared to be in good health and were taken to a hospital to be evaluated and reunited with relatives. A photo released by Berry's family showed her smiling with an arm around her sister. All three were released from Metro Health Medical Center on Tuesday morning. Police said they were taken to an undisclosed location in the suburbs.
A sign outside the home of DeJesus' parents read "Welcome Home Gina."
Her aunt Sandra Ruiz told reporters that she was able to see all three. She asked that the family be given space.
"Those girls, those women are so strong," she said. "What we've done in 10 years is nothing compared to what those women have done in 10 years to survive."
Investigators celebrated the news almost as much as the families.
"For Amanda's family, for Gina's family, for Michelle's family, prayers have finally been answered. The nightmare is over," said Stephen Anthony, head of the FBI office in Cleveland. "These three young ladies have provided us with the ultimate definition of survival and perseverance. The healing can now begin."
He added: "Words can't describe the emotions being felt by all. Yes, law enforcement professionals do cry."
The disappearances of Berry and DeJesus never left the minds of police. Investigators twice dug up backyards looking for Berry and continued to receive tips about the two every few months, even in recent years. But few leads ever came in about Knight, who was the first of the three to disappear, in August 2002.
The women's escape and rescue began with a frenzied cry for help.
A neighbor, Charles Ramsey, told WEWS-TV he heard screaming Monday and saw Berry, whom he didn't recognize, at a door that would open only enough to fit a hand through. He said she was trying desperately to get outside and pleaded for help to reach police.
"I heard screaming," he said. "I'm eating my McDonald's. I come outside. I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of a house."
Neighbor Anna Tejeda was sitting on her porch with friends when they heard someone across the street kicking a door and yelling. Tejeda said one of her friends went over and told Berry how to kick the screen out of the bottom of the door, which allowed her to crawl out.
Tejeda said Berry, dressed in pajamas and old sandals, was nervous and crying.