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Amanda Berry Talks to Grandmother; Gina DeJesus May Arrive Home Soon; Ariel Castro's Wife Claimed Abuse; Charges Due Soon In Kidnap Drama
Aired May 8, 2013 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Today, Amanda Berry's sister thanked the public and the media but asked for privacy during these difficult times. That's it for me this hour. I'll see you back here at 5:00 p.m. in "THE SITUATION ROOM." The CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with Ashleigh Banfield. She's reporting from Phoenix -- Ashleigh.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you so much. And our live story that just continues to unfold with remarkable details comes to us in Cleveland, Ohio, where right now we may see somewhat of a repeat of what we saw just an hour and a half ago with the return home of yet another one of these three victims who were held captive for a decade. We had just seen the return home of Amanda Berry, age 27. And now, we are seeing a crowd that is developing outside of the home of Gina DeJesus, 23 years old. This is the crowd that has gathered outside of her home as police tell us she is likely now to make her homecoming in the next few moments. We don't know when she's coming, but the police say that her return home is imminent. It is 1:00 in the afternoon Cleveland time as the police presence grows outside of Gina DeJesus's home. Let me remind you, Gina has been missing since 2004. That is one year after Amanda Berry went missing. At the time Gina went missing, she was just 14 years old. And the reports were that she was last seen at a pay phone in the middle of an afternoon as she was on her way home from school. But now, we're being told that after being treated in the hospital and her condition being reported to us as somewhat frail but good, we are likely to see in the next -- hopefully in the next short while the return home of Gina DeJesus to her family after just a harrowing ordeal allegedly at the hands of a man and his two brothers not far from the neighborhood where she disappeared. We have a number of developments that are happening in this story at this hour in fact. Just a short time ago, as I mentioned Amanda Berry, one of the three women locked up in now what is often being described as a house of horrors, locked up for nearly a decade or more, Amanda returned home to her family. And there was a crush, a throng of neighbors and friends and of course the media as well. Her nightmare finally ending for her, at least this phase of it. But her sister pleaded to all those who had gathered, who had been told by the police that she was going to make a statement, that she wanted to make a statement, instead her sister saying she chose not to and now is asking for privacy as this family tries to recover.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETH SERRANO: I just want to say we are so happy to have Amanda and her daughter home. I want to thank the public and the media for their support and encourage over the years. And at this time, our family would request privacy so my sister and niece and I can have time to recover. We appreciate all you have done for us throughout the past 10 years. Please respect our privacy until we are ready to make our statements. And thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: Beth Serrano making those comments amid just so many reporters. All of this as the men who allegedly held her sister and two others captive are expected to be charged with the crimes at any time now.
Our Poppy Harlow joins us on the phone now live from Cleveland. Poppy, I know that you were at the home when Amanda arrived and it was just such a remarkable scene to witness. Obviously, so many so fascinated and so interested in her recovery, both neighbors and friends but also the media wanting to know if she's OK. Give me a feel for that scene as you watched her arrive.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Hi, Ashleigh. I would say that it's jubilation. We pulled up just as crowds started to cheer. There are neighbors there, a lot of media of course, friends of the family, acquaintances all outside waiting for Amanda to return. She pulled up as she was in an unmarked -- it sort of looked like a squad car, if you will, investigator car. She was accompanied by police officers, also with her -- some of the lead FBI agents, people who had been on this case for years and years trying to find her. And people outside just erupted in cheers and applause for her that she had come home.
To paint a picture for you of this home, the Serrano home, they have had a sign with a picture of Amanda tied to the front of their home, we're told by neighbors, for years and years waiting, not giving up hope for her to come home, a yellow ribbon tied around a tree in front of the House, neighbors tell us, has also has been there for years for Amanda. Today, she came home. They could not be happier. Some of the neighbors that I spoke with after we heard that statement from her sister, Beth, told me that they could not be more excited, that this is thrilling, that this is just such a happy ending to such a scary and what they thought might be tragic story for Amanda and for those other two girls.
Of course, there is still one girl from this area still missing and we cannot forget that. Additionally, one of the neighbors that I spoke with that lives just down the street told me, you know, frankly I didn't think this day was coming. It had been so long, I didn't think she would return home. And to see her return home is just incredible.
BANFIELD: Poppy, this story is remarkable. And there are so many developing facets, not only those three victims, their stories, their homecomings, also those three suspects who have yet to be charged, what their stories are, what they're going to face, what their culpability may be in all of this, whether there was just a conspiracy, whether there was something more sinister. We're actually going to continue on the coverage of what's going to happen on those three men, but, at the same time, critically focus on the well being of these victims of this horrendous 10-year deal.
The pictures you are seeing now are live coming to us courtesy of our Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. This is the live picture at Gina DeJesus's home. She was abducted in 2004, spending nearly an entire decade in captivity. She was treated at the hospital. Her condition, at the time according to sources, said that she was actually doing fine and was in fairly good condition, certainly good enough condition to be released.
The girls -- the women, at this point, girls as they went into captivity, women as they emerge, have all been reported to be in somewhat frail health and certainly undernourished at the very least. We had reports from neighbors that they'd seen the accused -- or the near to be accused -- soon to be accused in this case, the owner of that home, he had been walking in and out of that home with many bags of McDonald's. At the time, it didn't seem so unusual, somewhat unusual, in retrospect, perhaps making more sense.
But now, as we look at the homecoming for Gina Dejesus, it's looking remarkably similar to what we witnessed just an hour ago, the homecoming of her co-captive, Amanda Berry, who at 27 years old now, came home to her sister's home with her six-year-old daughter, a daughter born in captivity as well. And now, here we are an hour later about to witness the homecoming of Gina Dejesus as well. Friends beginning to emerge. Neighbors emerging outside of this home as well.
And in the case of Amanda, we saw the crowd growing from just a few to several hundred over the course of about an hour as news broke that their friend and loved one and neighbor was going to be arriving home. And as we await Gina DeJesus's arrival home, Brian Todd joins me live now with more on this story -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ashleigh, as this all unfolds, we're awaiting another development from here at the courthouse in Cleveland, the possible filing of charges against Ariel Castro, the possible filing of charges against his two brothers. That could come sometime today, maybe sometime this afternoon, not quite clear on that.
But in the meantime, we are getting some new information on kind of a tangled web of allegations of abuse within the Castro family, especially against Ariel Castro from past years when he was living with the mother of his natural children. This was a woman named Gramilda Figarilla (ph). This is a document from Cuyahoga County domestic relations court from 2005. This contains several allegations of abuse against Ariel Castro, committed on this woman Gramilda Figerilla who is listed as the natural parent of his child, not as his spouse, but as the natural parent of his child.
Among the allegations of abuse against Ariel Castro, that he broke petitioner's nose, the petitioner is this woman, Gramilda Fiarilla. But he broke her nose twice, that he broke her ribs, that he gave her lacerations, knocked out a tooth, gave her a blood clot on the brain and in parenthesis, it says, inoperable tumor, that he dislocated her shoulders, once on each side, that he threatened to kill her and her daughters three to four times just this year. And you flip the page here and another allegation is that -- I'll read it to you, the petitioner has full custody with no visitation for the respondent and the respondent is Ariel Castro. Nevertheless, the respondent frequently abducts daughters and keeps them from the mother, petitioner legal custodian.
So, these are allegations of abuse and of abduction against Ariel Castro. Now, we do have to say that these charges were dismissed later in that year. A court official familiar with the case tells us however that that does not necessarily mean a finding of guilty or not guilty. According to this official, there were several instances where Ariel Castro did not show up for court. And then finally, on one of the bigger days of these proceedings, the lawyer for Gramilda Figarilla was not able to be present and the court determined that she would be at a disadvantage so they dismissed the case against him. But, again, according to a court official familiar with this case, that was not necessarily a finding of guilt -- guilty or not guilty with regard to these allegations -- Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: And, again, Brian, we should remind our viewers, these allegations come for a protective order, but not -- that they didn't result necessarily in charges of abuse which is so remarkable. And, Brian, as we know, this wife, Gramilda Figarilla, is now deceased. But is there anything in any of these documents to indicate where these two children are, these daughters that are listed in the documents? They -- essentially, could they have been part of this -- of this home in which these three young women were allegedly held captive?
TODD: Well, it's not clear where one of the daughters is but we do know where one of the other daughters is because we have another document from the State of Indiana about one of their daughters, Emily Castro. A document which states that she, in 2007, tried to kill her baby daughter by slitting her throat four times.
This is another document from a court in Indiana saying she tried to kill her own baby daughter and that the mother, Gramilda, actually saved that baby daughter's life by wrestling the daughter from her, hailing a car and getting her to the hospital. That's according to this court document that we have in our possession right now. We've also confirmed with the courts and with the prison system in Indiana that that daughter, Emily Castro, is serving a 25-year sentence for attempted murder in that case.
BANFIELD: Brian Todd reporting for us live outside the Criminal Justice Center in downtown Cleveland.
I want to bring in my colleague, Nancy Grace, now who knows a thing or two about prosecuting having been a prosecutor for so many years. I don't even know where to begin, Nancy, with the number of different infractions, violations and laws that have been broken in the myriad different series of facts we're beginning to learn about in this now what we're being told is a house of horrors. I want to just ask you, with your initial knowledge of the evidence that so far police have told us about, where do you see this investigation going?
NANCY GRACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I see the obvious choices that you have already discussed such as kidnapping, rape, sodomy, abuse. But I think one victim that has not received any focus at all is the child that was born out of this house of horrors. The six-year-old little girl that came out of that house. And we have also heard from sources that the other women were pregnant several times. But there was never another live birth, which leads me to wonder what happened to those pregnancies.
Not only that, according to many sources an alleged suicide note written by one of the Castros, Ariel Castro, was found in the home and shockingly in that alleged suicide note, Ashleigh, he blames the victims for getting into his car to start with. He claims he has a sex addiction and that he needs help. Ropes and chains were found in that home. It is speculated that the women were kept in separate rooms, bound, even in cages. All of this happening in a residential neighborhood. A lot of focus claiming cops didn't do enough, but I would suggest that we take the focus off what cops didn't do and focus on the real perpetrators, that being the Castros. If this suicide note is real, that will be very strong evidence against Ariel Castro.
And another thing, about the child, the little child born in that home, think of the child abuse. No vaccinations, no school, nothing, living off bags of McDonald's that Ariel brought in once in a while during the day. He would stay gone for long periods of time, show up, stay there maybe an hour and leave. That child was raised up in that condition. You know, I also am happy to report that there are sources saying that the brothers, the Castro brothers, are subjected to a lot of verbal abuse behind bars and, boy, do they deserve it.
BANFIELD: Well, and their saga is just beginning as well in terms of what they're going to be facing.
Nancy, with all of your years having been a prosecutor I can't even begin to wonder what this community, Cleveland, it is not a small city, but how much manpower is this city going to need in terms of dispatching those to investigate each of those brothers, the crime scene itself, these three young women who were once children, their stories, the child born in captivity.
It just seems to me that this is a crime like no other that would require manpower unknown to probably a lot of communities that have dealt with terrible crimes in the past. How do they even begin this remarkable investigation and the cases that are going to follow?
NANCY GRACE, HOST, "NANCY GRACE": Well, the most evidence is going to be obtained from the four victims that we know of, the child and the adult females. But I would suggest, in addition to cordoning off the home and processing it, that we also focus on another girl, 14-year- old Ashley Summers who went missing very, very close to the same location as these girls. They all go missing around Lorain Street, all three of them.
And it's amazing to me that no one could connect the dots that three girls may go missing within a space of a couple of years off one street from one street. And one of the three missing girls was actually friends with one of the Castro children. Yes. That's right. Gina, the one that was -- the 14-year-old that was taken on her way home walking home from school, was a close friend of one of the Castro brothers' children.
They were all connected. This is not stranger on stranger. So my advice is that maybe there's another life to be saved or sadly a homicide to be solved with 14-year-old -- then-14-year-old Ashley Summers. Is she another victim in the Castro brothers?
BANFIELD: And we're -- Nancy, we're going to be following the story of Ashley Summers a little later on in this program because as you mentioned she went missing not long after these other three victims went missing as well. And not that far away.
I also want to report, Nancy, that one of the things our CNN crews in the field in Cleveland have been -- have been discovering is that a number of people have been approaching our live trucks because they see that there's CNN emblazoned on the side and asking for help in finding their child who's been missing, that they're suspecting perhaps these brothers, these suspected brothers may be involved in the disappearance of their children.
And this isn't just one report. This is happening to a number of our crews and our reporters in the field. They're being approached by people in Cleveland asking for help, asking to turn the attention to their loved one who hasn't been found yet. It's just -- it's such a traumatic ordeal for the families of those involved. Also the families around Cleveland.
GRACE: Ashleigh, that is -- that is very upsetting. That's very upsetting. And I want to point out that when Ashley was taken, she was believed to be a runaway, a runaway, which tragically is a label put on so many children that disappear especially the 'tweens. You know, 12, 13, 14, 15, they're labeled as runaways.
And I'm telling you, police are crushed. They don't have enough resources. So when they hear runaway, they put it off in another category. I wonder how many of these children died or were abducted at the hands of the Castro brothers right under the nose of their own neighbors.
BANFIELD: Well, clearly -- yes. And clearly the investigation will go as far as it can in determining that. We do want to say that police and FBI did respond with cadaver dogs to that location and they have reported today that there are no human remains that have been discovered on that site.
Nancy, if you could hold for one moment, I want to just bring up that live picture again of Gina DeJesus' home where we're expecting any moment she's about to make her homecoming as well. Not unlike the homecoming just over an hour ago of her co-captive Amanda Berry.
And Gina, now at age 23, was missing at age 14 back in 2004. And you can see the people who are amassing, the neighbors and the media as well.
And Nancy, if you could just stand by, I have so many more questions about the FBI and the child victim specialist that they have dispatched to interview these women who were children when they disappeared. And the child that Amanda Berry has mothered in captivity.
I've got so many questions for you, Nancy, about that. Quick break. Back right after this.
BANFIELD: And we are back live in Cleveland with an aerial shot of the home of Gina DeJesus. We are told that Gina's aunt is preparing to make a public comment for not only all of those neighbors who are coming out, but also the press. I feel as though I've just been through this exact story with the young woman who was a captive alongside her for a decade because we just saw almost an identical story playing out not far away at the home of Amanda Berry, age 27.
And she just returned home to her sister's home amid a crush of neighbors, hundreds of them turning out to welcome her home, balloons and toys and things on her front doorstep and signs welcoming her home. And we were told by the police she wanted to make a public comment, something changed and instead her sister, Beth Serrano, asked for privacy as they prepare to make a statement at another time.
And here we are looking at the home of Gina DeJesus and almost the exact same situation is playing out. The police have actually roped off the area. They've kept people behind those yellow tape if you can see on your screen. But we are told that Gina will not be making a public statement herself but that her aunt, when she comes home, will be making this statement.
I also just want to remind you that these three young women once they were freed from this now described house of horrors almost immediately were taken for treatment to a hospital nearby. And in fact, the two on the left hand side of your screen, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, were described as in fairly good condition, in fact. That they were undernourished, somewhat malnourished and that they are weak and frail. But that they were OK.
Michele Knight, on the other hand, was not released, not quite as lucky. And not in as good a shape either. In fact, she remains in the hospital we're told after the press was notified that all three were released, they changed that. They said Michele Knight is still in the hospital, in fact, and still undergoing treatment.
I want to go back to my colleague Nancy Grace who is standing by.
Nancy, one of the things that I asked you as we were going to break is how to handle these victims. Because we're talking about three children who went into captivity, emerged as women and then a fourth child who has emerged from captivity.
The interviewing process and the necessary information they need to glean from these people, it's just got to be such a difficult process. And they have to have such skilled investigators. GRACE: Well, Ashleigh, I recall one of my very first child molestation cases, I had a little girl, I still remember her, she was 3 years old, and had been molested by her mom's live-in for years. I still remember her. She had about 100 braids on her hair. She was absolutely the most beautiful girl. And somehow I had to break through and talk to her and glean evidence about years of sexual abuse and child rape.
What these investigators have going for them is that these once-girls are now grown women. And one of them likely very protective of her own child born in captivity. So I think they're going to want to speak. They're able to speak unlike child victims, the problem is they're going to be so emotionally distraught in retelling that story.
The good news is that over the years investigators have built a special school regarding forensic questioning of sex abuse victims. And they'll be utilizing all of those skills. Also, the feds are involved. So a lot of times those skills aren't honed in smaller jurisdictions, but the feds will be able to help. It's a horrible time for these victims, but the headline is forget the questioning, forget the case building, they are alive.
And that child is alive. That's the headline. They're going to be so happy. I think that they'll be able to recount their story and build a case on their testimony alone. Remember, it wasn't that long ago that we tried cases without DNA, without sperm, without hair analysis built on the testimony of witnesses, these three witnesses. And I would not be surprised if the child witness is called as well at trial.
BANFIELD: And they've got an FBI child specialist who's been doing part of this investigation. They've already done some of the questioning. In fact, my colleague, your colleague, Jean Casarez is standing beside me right here as well, Nancy. And I think one of the questions a lot of people will be wondering, so many are focusing on the condition of these young women, as we should be.
They are really the focus of the story now and their well-being. But, Jean, if you -- I mean, if you take a case like this where teenagers go into captivity for a decade, have they grown, have they matured? Are they still children? At this point how to police and investigators view them? And how do they -- at this point not suggesting that you're a psychologist at any comment, but you used to cover so many of these cases. How do they emerge from this and literally grow up?
JEAN CASAREZ, HLN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: You know what you're saying, Ashleigh, I have covered so many cases. And the various levels of what is happening right now. I think it's extraordinary. You have the glorious reunions.
Forensic psychologists are what you're talking about. Psychologists will need to come in to take these girls step by step, through what they've been through, see what level they're at. And the amazing thing about this, Ashleigh, just minutes away from these reunions, forensic investigators, crime scene investigators are combing through the mountain of evidence from a decade now that have been put together that will be a part of the criminal case.
BANFIELD: And it's just -- I want to go back to that scene that's just growing as we speak outside of Gina DeJesus' home in Cleveland, Ohio, where hundreds of her neighbors and friends have begun to appear just like they did at Amanda Berry's home. They bring balloons and toys, they bring messages of goodwill and hope and recovery. And we've been told that her aunt is going to make a public statement for us.
And it's apparently just moments away she's going to be returning home to this Cleveland residence.
And Nancy Grace, if you could just jump in here with me as well. For a homecoming, and I know as a prosecutor you spend so much time with victims and that is such a crucial part of any kind of prosecution, but at the same time, Nancy, when you have victims like this who are so scarred emotionally, physically probably, how do you bring them into this case? And at the same time how do you get the most from them to get an ironclad case?
GRACE: Well, the sad and the harsh reality is that it is the police job and the prosecutor's job to get the evidence. I tried so hard. I would sit in my car and cry before I would go in and try to talk to for instance child rape victims or adult rape victims that had been through so much they could hardly speak.
Some of them I remember one girl broke down on the stand, put her hands down on her -- her head on her hands and couldn't speak anymore on direct examination, the moment of truth in front of the jury. We had to -- stop court and kind of start all over. And unless you've seen it or lived through it yourself, it's so hard to describe what these victims have been through.
And there are a lot of victims out there right now hearing our voices that have never told police or anyone else what has happened to them. It's so hard and difficult and painful to talk about not just the physical abuse, it's the feeling of helplessness. That feeling that nobody helped you. Nobody could help you. That feeling, that particular feeling seems to go with these victims for the rest of their lives.
But I'll tell you this, Ashleigh, I think it's more important for them to go to court and try their best to verbalize and tell their story than to not speak and years from now feel that justice skipped over them. That is the worst injustice of all. They must speak.
BANFIELD: And if they -- if they need time, they should have it. Every professional we've spoken with says the same thing, including Jaycee Duggard who -- and Elizabeth Smart.