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Amanda Berry's sister offers thanks, seeks privacy

By Thomas J. Sheeran

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, May 8 2013 12:15 p.m. MDT

Neighbors and friends of Amanda Berry wait for her arrival at her sister's home, Wednesday, May 8, 2013, in Cleveland. Berry, 27, Michelle Knight, 32, and DeJesus, around 23 years old, had apparently been held captive in the house since their teens or early 20s, police said.

Tony Dejak, Associated Press

CLEVELAND — Amanda Berry, who was held captive for about a decade before being rescued from a house along with two other women, arrived at her sister's home Wednesday morning to the cheers of hundreds of neighbors and swarms of journalists.

Berry's sister, Beth Serrano, spoke briefly to the crowd after their arrival, thanking the community for their support but asking for privacy during this difficult time.

Her homecoming comes as more details about the women's years-long ordeal were revealed, including that chains and ropes were found in the home where they had been imprisoned.

The owner of that home, Ariel Castro, and his two brothers are in custody after a frantic 911 call led police to his run-down house, where authorities say Berry and the two other women missing for about a decade were held captive.

Authorities have until Wednesday evening to bring charges against the men.

Berry, 27, Michelle Knight, 32, and Gina DeJesus, about 23, had been held in the house since their teens or early 20s, police said.

Police would not say how the women were taken captive or whether they were sexually assaulted. Police spokesman Sammy Morris confirmed on Wednesday that the ropes and chains were among evidence collected inside the house by law enforcement officials.

Police Chief Michael McGrath told NBC's "Today" show on Wednesday that the women were restrained and "released out in the back yard once in a while."

McGrath said he was "absolutely" sure police did everything they could to find the women over the years. He disputed claims by neighbors that officers had been called to the house before for suspicious circumstances. "We have no record of those calls coming in over the past 10 years," he said.

As word of Berry's homecoming spread, a large crowd swelled in the street outside the home decorated with dozens of balloons, and homemade signs, one reading "We Never Lost Hope Mandy."

A 6-year-old girl believed to be Berry's daughter also was found in the home Monday, police Deputy Chief Ed Tomba said. He wouldn't say who the father was.

About a week ago, Castro took the 6-year-old girl to a nearby park, where they played in the grass, said Israel Lugo, a neighbor who lives down the street. "I asked him whose kid was it, and he told me his girlfriend's daughter," Lugo said.

The women were rescued after Berry kicked out the bottom portion of a locked screen door and used a neighbor's telephone to call 911. An officer showed up minutes later and Berry ran out and threw her arms around the officer, a neighbor said.

Police identified the other two suspects as the 52-year-old Castro's brothers, Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50. Calls to the jail went unanswered, and there was no response to interview requests sent to police, the jail and city officials.

A relative of the three brothers said their family was "totally shocked" after hearing about the missing women being found at the home.

Juan Alicea said the arrests of his wife's brothers had left relatives "as blindsided as anyone else" in their community. He said he hadn't been to the home of his brother-in-law Ariel Castro since the early 1990s but had eaten dinner with Castro at a different brother's house shortly before the arrests were made Monday.

Investigators also are talking with relatives of at least one other missing woman from the neighborhood.

The aunt of a 14-year-old girl who disappeared in 2007 near the house where the missing women were found says the girl's mother has spoken with the FBI about her niece.

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