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Neighbor Angel Cordero played a key role in Cleveland women's escape

By Tom Watkins, CNN
May 10, 2013 -- Updated 0256 GMT (1056 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cordero responds to a cry for help from a neighbor
  • Unable to open the door, "I gave it a few kicks," he says
  • Amanda Berry escapes, then returns for her daughter
  • "I feel a little proud," Cordero says

(CNN) -- The three women and a child who were freed Monday after years of imprisonment inside a Cleveland house may have remained trapped had it not been for the efforts of a man who was visiting two women on the porch of a house across the street.

"One of the women I was with told me that something was happening in front of the house," Angel Cordero, 32, said on CNN's "Piers Morgan Live" on Wednesday.

Cordero told CNN en Español that, seeing a woman screaming for help from inside the house across the street, he went to the door of the house and asked her if the house was burning.

"She told me no, that she had been held, kidnapped, for 10 years," the Dominican man who has lived in the United States since 2011 said in Spanish.

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Cordero said that the woman had cracked opened the inner of two front doors but that the outer door was closed with a chain. "I tried to open the door, but I couldn't, so I gave it a few kicks," he said.

"She succeeded in escaping through the bottom of the door, and once she had escaped, she remembered the girl and returned into the house, picked up the girl and left. And when she left with the little girl, she said, 'Let's get out of here because, if this guy comes, he's going to kill us. If he finds me here, he's going to kill me and he's going to kill you.'"

The woman, later identified as Amanda Berry, apparently was making reference to the owner of the house, whom police have identified as Ariel Castro, and who has been charged in the case.

Castro held on $8 million bond

Berry then crossed the street with her child, 6-year-old Jocelyn, and went to the house of Altagracia Tejeda, the neighbor Cordero had been visiting, where she called 911.

But Cordero's job was not done. Once police arrived and began talking with Berry, the girl, dressed only in diapers and a T-shirt, began screaming, he said.

"I tried to control the girl," he said. "I tried to calm her until her mother finished with the police."

Police then entered the house at 2207 Seymour Avenue and escorted out the other two women: Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus. "They took Michelle and Gina out covered up," he said. "I didn't see their faces."

Cordero said that he has visited his friend in the neighborhood nearly every day, but had never before seen anyone other than Castro at the house across the street. "He entered through the back," he said. "No one ever saw anyone (else) enter or leave there. ... There was never anything that would attract attention."

Asked if he considers himself a hero, he allowed that, "I feel a little proud." But, he added, "the important thing is that she is alive."

Cordero's account was corroborated by Tejeda, who is also from the Dominican Republic.

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Cordero said he is unemployed, having recently been laid off from his job as a tree trimmer for a power company.

Another neighbor, Charles Ramsey, has received the lion's share of media attention for his role in freeing the group. But Ramsey showed up after Berry had already escaped, according to Cordero.

Suspect's daughter: No monster in our blood

There is no dispute that Ramsey also contacted police. "Hey bro," Ramsey told a 911 operator. "Check this out. I just came from McDonald's right? So I'm on my porch eating my little food, right? This broad is trying to break out the f-----g house next door to me, so there's a bunch of people on the street right now and s--t. So we're like, 'What's wrong, what's the problem?' She's like, 'This m--------r done kidnapped me and my daughter. ... She said her name is Linda Berry or some s--t. I don't know who the f--k that is, I just moved over here, bro. You know what I mean?"

He then answers the 911 operator's questions about Berry, what she looked like and what she was wearing.

"Are the people that she said did this, are they still in the house?" the 911 operator asks.

"I don't have a f-----g clue, bro. Like I said, I just came from McDonald's."

The operator then asks him to check to see whether Berry needs an ambulance.

"She needs everything. She's in a panic, bro. She's been kidnapped, so, you know, put yourself in her shoes."

"We'll send the police out," the operator responds.

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