Amanda Berry, one of the three women who was kidnapped and held prisoner for about a decade in a Cleveland house, returned to the embrace of her family on Wednesday.
Berry, now 27, arrived at her sister Beth Serrano’s Cleveland home, several miles from the house on Seymour Avenue where Berry, her 6-year-old daughter and two other women were imprisoned.
Yellow ribbons were tied to the trees and the front of the house was festooned with balloons, stuffed animals and a huge banner proclaiming: “WELCOME HOME AMANDA.”
Berry and her family entered through a back door, away from a media horde outside the home and moments later her sister came forward. Serrano said the family appreciates all of the support it has received, but asked for privacy to deal with the return of Berry and her daughter.
“I just want to say we are so happy to have Amanda and her daughter home,” Serrano told the more than 100 neighbors and journalists. “At this time our family would request privacy so my sister, my niece and I have time to recover.
“Please respect our privacy until we are ready to make our statement and thank you,” she said.
Berry was hailed for breaking through the screen door of the house where she and Georgina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32, were being held. After getting out, Berry used a neighbor’s cellphone to contact police.
The three women were separately kidnapped about a year apart, beginning in 2002.
Three brothers, Ariel Castro, 52, Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50, have been arrested in the case.
On Wednesday, Ariel Castro was charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape. His brothers were not charged in connection with the disappearances. However, they face outstanding warrants on misdemeanor charges.
Ariel Castro, a former school bus driver, has been identified as the owner of the house on Seymour Avenue where the women were kept.
Neighbor Carmen Santiago, 34, brought her young son, who was wearing a Superman uniform, to the homecoming.
“We’ve always been hoping for them to get home. The parents did a good job; we never forgot them,” she said.
Debbie Cuevas, who lives a few blocks away, drove down to witness the arrival.
“It’s so many mixed emotions. It’s great news, and then you think about how long she was gone, all the things she missed out on,” said Cuevas, 50.
By Alana Semuels and Michael Muskal - Los Angeles Times (MCT) (Semuels reported from Cleveland, Muskal from Los Angeles.)
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