|Bungling Cleveland cops missed women captives twice despite neighbors’ calls
Neighbors said they had called police on at least two occasions over the years to check on the peeling, rundown house in Cleveland, Ohio, where three women, who vanished separately about a decade ago, were held captive. Police said they visited the house twice regarding two unrelated incidents.
Police are now facing questions about their handling of the case, AP reports.
One neighbor said she called police after her daughter saw a naked woman crawling on her hands and knees in the backyard of the house a few years ago. Another said he called after hearing pounding on the doors and noticed plastic bags over the windows.
Police showed up at the house both times, the neighbors say, but never went inside.
Police chief Michael McGrath said Amanda Berry, 27, Gina DeJesus, about 23, and Michelle Knight, 32 , had apparently been held captive in the house since their teens or early 20s.
Authorities arrested three brothers _ identified as Ariel Castro, 52; Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50. One of them, former school bus driver Ariel Castro, owned the home, situated in a poor neighborhood dotted with boarded-up houses. No immediate charges were filed. Attempts to reach Ariel Castro in jail were unsuccessful.
Cleveland police came under heavy criticism in a separate case a few years ago following the discovery of 11 bodies in a man's home and backyard in another poor section of the city. Neighbors had long complained about foul odors, and the victims' families charged that police didn't take the reports of missing women seriously.
As for whether police this time overlooked hints about the women's fate, city safety director Martin Flask said Tuesday morning that investigators had no record of anyone calling about criminal activity at the house but were still checking police, fire and emergency databases.
Two neighbors said Tuesday that 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.
“Everyone in the neighborhood did what they had to do,'' said Lupe Collins, who is close to relatives of the women. “The police didn't do their job.''
Police did go to the house twice in the past 15 years, but not in connection with the women's disappearance, officials said.