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Cleveland - Three women believed to have been abducted years ago were found alive on Monday at a Cleveland house a short distance from where at least two of them were last seen - and police said a school bus driver was arrested in connection with their disappearance.
A neighbour in the community said he was alerted to their presence by screams from the house and rushed to the dwelling where he found the women, one of whom used his cellphone to call police.
“Help me! I'm Amanda Berry. I've been kidnapped and I've been missing for 10 years and I'm here. I'm free now,” Berry is heard frantically telling a 911 emergency operator in a recording of the call, released by police and posted on the website of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
During the call, she gave the name of her alleged abductor and said he was “out of the house”.
All three women have since been taken to a hospital, where they were reported to be in good medical condition, police said.
Growing crowds on the street where the women were found cheered as police cars drove into the cordoned-off area.
The three women were identified by police as Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight. Police said in a twitter posting that the three were “alive, talking, appeared to be okay”.
Local media have reported that Berry vanished in 2003 and DeJesus in 2004 when they were teenagers. CNN reported that Knight disappeared in 2000 at the age of 20.
Local television station WKYC reported that one of the women was seen holding a baby, but reports that there were children in the home with the three women could not immediately be confirmed.
Police identified the suspect as Ariel Castro, 52, a bus driver for Cleveland public schools.
His uncle, Caesar Castro, who owns a grocery store on the same street, said his nephew owned the house where the women were found. He added that members of his family and the family of DeJesus “grew up together”.
“Everyone is shocked,” said the elder Castro. He said he had known his nephew to be “a good guy” and a musician who played the bass.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said: “I am thankful that Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight have been found alive.”
He added: “We have many unanswered questions regarding this case, and the investigation will be ongoing. Again, I am thankful that these three young ladies are found and alive.” - Reuters