(AP) CLEVELAND - One neighbor says a naked woman was seen a few years ago crawling on her hands and knees in the backyard of the Cleveland house where three women were found Monday after nearly a decade. Another neighbor says he heard 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.
One day after Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, were rescued from the peeling, rundown house Monday in a discovery that exhilarated and astonished the city, Cleveland police are facing questions about their handling of the case and are conducting an internal review to see if they overlooked anything.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.
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 break in the case came when the 27-year-old Berry kicked out the bottom of a locked screen door at the home and used a neighbor's telephone to call 911. Choking back tears, she breathlessly told the dispatcher: "Help me. I'm Amanda Berry. I've been kidnapped and I've been missing for 10 years and I'm, I'm here, I'm free now."
Police arrived to find the two other women, along with a 6-year-old girl who authorities said was believed to Berry's daughter. Police would not say who the father was or where the child was born.Cleveland police came under heavy criticism in a separate case a few years ago following the discovery of 11 bodies in the home and backyard of Anthony Sowell 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.
Sowelle was eventually sentenced to death. In the wake of public outrage over the killings, a panel formed by the mayor recommended an overhaul of the city's handling of missing-person and sex crime investigations.
Police Chief Michael McGrath said Berry, DeJesus and Knight had apparently been held captive in the house since
their teens or early 20s. Authorities
arrested three brothers, ages 50 to 54. One of them, former school bus
driver Ariel Castro, owned the home, situated in a poor neighborhood
dotted with boarded-up houses.
As for whether police this time overlooked hints about the women's fate, city Safety Director Martin Flask said Tuesday morning: "At this point, I can confirm that we have no indications that any of the neighbors, bystanders, witnesses or anyone else has ever called regarding any information, regarding activity that occurred at that house."