Return to Transcripts main page


Gina DeJesus Expected Home Soon; Charges Soon For Castro Brothers; Retracing Area of Abductions; Neighbors Report Strange Activity

Aired May 8, 2013 - 14:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome. I'm Brooke Baldwin, live here in Cleveland for special coverage of the fast-moving story of three long-lost women, and, of course, the three brothers arrested here in this case. We're watching this story.

We're also watching for you today this hearing on Capitol Hill. Two live pictures both on your screen here. We know that in Washington, whistle-blowers are testifying about the attack in Benghazi from September of a year ago.

But first, just over my right shoulder here, Seymour Avenue, this is the home police say was a prison. But not too far from here, let's go to the pictures, absolute jubilation not too far from where I stand here in Cleveland as we are hearing that Gina DeJesus, who went missing 10 years ago when she was 14 years of age, she was leaving her middle school, last seen at a pay phone, wanted to spend the night with a friend of hers. The mom said no. And then, according to reports, she was plucked off the street.

Tremendous media presence here. You can see Cleveland affiliates have this story covered for you from the air and from the ground. We will not go too far from this scene as we are awaiting the very first pictures of Gina DeJesus coming home to her family there in Cleveland.

And for nearly a decade, inside the house here, back here on Seymour Avenue, in the home behind me, Amanda Berry's movements were seen by a select few. And now, as a free woman, the world watched her every step as she arrived at her sister's home in Cleveland. The sister stepped out -- I was there. The sister was surrounded by a crush of media and she gave just a very brief statement just about an hour or so ago. Listen.


BETH SERRANO, AMANDA BERRY'S SISTER: 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) BALDWIN: Look at that scene. I tell you, it was quick, it was short. Respect our privacy. An understandable request as Berry experiences moment after moment of life altering reconnections with loved ones who thought, for all these years, that she was dead. The 27-year-old came home to a wall of flowers. You saw the home. Flowers and balloons and signs welcoming her, celebrating her return. The end of her nightmare here on Seymour Avenue.

Cleveland's police chief talked to NBC and told them that the women were bound. His investigators did find chains and ropes inside the home here. And at the home of Gina DeJesus' family, more signs of celebration and thanks as we continue to look at these live pictures.

But the third woman rescued here in Cleveland, her name is Michele Knight, she's still in the hospital this afternoon. A relative of one of the women says that Knight appears weak and unwilling to meet with her mother.

But as these women, these three young women continue to move forward and recover, the men under arrest in the case, the Castro brothers, here are the three of them, could be charged soon. And this hour you will learn how the main suspect here, the one on the far left-hand side - there he is, Ariel Castro, 52 years of age, how he has a troubling history of alleged violence. We're digging into that for you this hour here on CNN.

But let's go back to Gina DeJesus, because, as we mentioned, she is expected any minute now to arrive there at home here in Cleveland. And that is where we have Poppy Harlow, who is standing outside of this home.

Poppy, what do you know? I mean I know you and I both were at the Amanda Berry home earlier today -


BALDWIN: And you could feel the excitement in the air. And it was the quick statement from the sister and there was no Amanda Berry. Do we think we'll see Gina?

HARLOW: It really depends how she pulls up to the house. What we know, Brooke, is we're not going to hear from Gina today. We've already been told that. But we are going to hear from one of her family members after she arrives home.

The scene for you, hundreds of people outside -- media, friends, neighbors, here to welcome home this girl that they last saw when she was 14 years old. Gina DeJesus, I spent pretty much all day yesterday at her home, speaking with her family members, with her brother, also with her sister and her aunt about this. They were elated, shocked, relieved that their daughter and sister and niece was found. And now she's going to come back into this family home.

This is a home where she grew up. She lived in this home with her two parents, Nancy and Felix, also with her older brother, Ricardo, and her older sister, Myra (ph). And we are going to see her walk in there any moment now. I'm told by a local councilman here, Matt Dylan (ph), who is good friends with the family, that they expected her just about 2:00. So just a few minutes ago. So it could be any moment. And we are here for you to see it happen.

But, again, we're not going to hear from her. I would suspect we're going to hear from Sandra, that is the aunt of Gina. She's been the family spokesman throughout. So we could likely hear from her. We do know some family member is going to come out and address the media, Brooke.

But people are just relieved. And, you know, I don't know what shot you're showing right now. I know we have aerial shots of some of the crowds. But if you can see the front of the home, there is a sign there under all those balloons, there's a picture of a smiling 14- year-old girl, and that is Gina. We're told by neighbors that that poster of Gina's face has been up on this house for years. The entire time that she has been missing. That has been there, showing that this family has not last hope and it is still there today to welcome her back.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes, you know, today I was retracing the final locations of all three of these young women and there was actually one of the original, presumably, missing posters for Gina DeJesus and on top of it was a, you know, thank God she's home.


BALDWIN: Let me as you one more question, Poppy, because, again, earlier, I harken back to the scene at Amanda Berry's house and you and I were both sort of in this crush of family and neighbors and also we see, as the scene there, the media. And I was talking - I was trying to talk to some of the cousins of Amanda Berry who I could see, you know, just with pen and paper, were scrawling out notes because they weren't allowed yet to go inside the home to see their long lost cousin and they were very clearly frustrated. They were writing notes. I saw one woman writing "hi, pumpkin, long time, no see." Are you seeing family members out there where you are?

HARLOW: We are. From the vantage point write am, I'm across the street of the home. And right now in the backyard of the home, I see Robert Asorio (ph). He is one of Gina's cousins. He's been someone that we've been talking to throughout yesterday. And I see him in the back of the home, on the phone, waiting for her. So we know that they have family members in the home. We don't know - we don't know how many at this point in time. We don't know who's over there. But I can tell you, from yesterday morning when I arrived here, this home was full of family and friends and supporters.

BALDWIN: So many people elated to see these young women home. Poppy Harlow, stand by. We'll be coming back to you as soon as we see any more activity there at the home of Gina DeJesus. Thank you so much.

At age 32, Michele Knight is the oldest of these three women who were rescued just a couple of days ago. She is back in an Ohio hospital today. She is in good condition. This is what we're told. But a hospital spokeswoman would not say what Knight is being treated for today, specifically. Wouldn't go into that. Knight's family's situation does appear to be a bit murky because her mother says she has not spoken with her daughter yet in these past 48 hours since she's been free. The mother did talk to NBC and she told NBC what she wants to say to her daughter. Take a listen.


BARBARA KNIGHT, MOTHER OF KIDNAP SURVIVOR MICHELE KNIGHT: That I love you and I missed you all this time. And hopefully whatever happened between us, if something did, I hope it heals. Because I really want to take her back to Florida. I don't want to leave her up in Cleveland.


BALDWIN: The mother now lives in Florida. The mother says some people believe Knight originally disappeared years ago because Knight lost custody of a baby son shortly before she vanished. Knight's brother, Freddie, he says that he's been estranged from their mother for years and year. He didn't even know his sister had been kidnapped until he saw the story unfolding on television. He says his mom never tells him anything.


FREDDIE KNIGHT, BROTHER OF MICHELE KNIGHT: I was shocked when I found out, yes. I was like shaking, yes, realizing that my sister is found.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did you do when you saw her? Did you run up to her and hugger? Did you --

KNIGHT: Yes, I hugged her because she wanted a hug. She's like -- like white as a ghost, but she's doing good.


BALDWIN: Knight's cousin describes her as mentally challenged.


BRENDA DINICKLE, COUSIN OF MICHELE KNIGHT: Michele told my niece that she was going to use the payphone and that she would come back to my sister's house, which she didn't. That was the last time Michele was seen.

Michele was an adult, but she had a mind of a child.


BALDWIN: Knight was the first of the three women to disappear. She disappeared off a street August 22, 2002.

And as the victims recover and are reuniting with their families here in Cleveland this afternoon, investigators are focusing on these three men, the brothers suspected of an absolutely atrocious crime, 52-year- old bus driver Ariel Castro, 50-year-old Onil Castro, and 54-year-old Pedro Castro. In the coming hours, these brothers are expected to be charged. Evyenia Poumpouras joins me now. She's a former Secret Service agent in New York for me.

And, Evyenia, I know you've been involved in interrogations. Can you just walk me through what, you know, law enforcement will be asking of these three brothers? What is priority number one?

EVYENIA POUMPOURAS, FMR. SECRET SERVICE AGENT: Well, the main thing is, the first thing you want to do is split them up, right? The three brothers. You don't want them to have time to get together, to rehearse their story or put a story together. So that's the key element. And in this particular situation, law enforcement has the upper hand because when you're dealing with multiple suspects, then you have three different people who could be potentially telling you information and then you can play them off one another. So what their concern is, is like who is going to speak first, who is going to break first. It could be the alpha in the group, where he's the one who's the ring leader and he may say, you know what, I'm the one who's going to take the bigger blame, I'm going to speak up first and so that way I can work something out with law enforcement, or is it the weaker person within the group who does break down and speaks. But this helps law enforcement because when you're dealing with a singular suspect, you just have one person to work off of.

BALDWIN: I see. And so that is how you get hopefully one of them to slip up. And inside this room, can you just paint the picture for me, Evyenia, of what the room is like, what the atmosphere inside this room is like?

POUMPOURAS: So, in general, when you do any interview or interrogation, you want a very generic looking room. You want to minimize any windows. You don't want to have windows. You don't want to have anything on the walls, any distractions. And interrogators themselves shouldn't have really anything on them. They typically dress almost parallel to the person they're interviewing. No law enforcement paraphernalia on them, any symbolism like that. And when you come into that room, you present yourself as an objective seeker of the truth. It's almost like you separate yourself from the investigation. And you speak to them and say, hey, I'm not here, I'm not part of this investigation, I'm a neutral entity that is here to get the information I need to put this piece together. So you want to establish a rapport, a relationship with that person, and try to get them to speak to you as openly as they can. So you want to create this pseudo safe environment really is what you're doing.

BALDWIN: Evyenia Poumpouras with helping us understand what's happening in this interrogation room. Evyenia, thank you.

Again, just a reminder, these three brothers, they are in custody. They have yet to be charged. We're watching that.

Also, CNN has learned more about Ariel Castro's disturbing history of violence. A mug shot. Let me show this to you. Here he is. This was taken when he was arrested for alleged domestic violence. This was back in 1993. That charge was later dropped. But 12 years later, in 2005, more allegations surfaced of a brutal side of this man. When we look through court documents filed in a custody battle over his daughters, this man is accused of severely beating his then wife Grimilda. Quote, "Castro fought with his former wife over the custody of their children. Castro's wife twice suffered a broken nose, as well as broken ribs, a knocked out tooth, a blood clot on the brain, and two dislocated shoulders," end quote.

These documents, quoting the now deceased ex-wife's attorney, Grimilda, quote, "has full custody with no visitation from Castro. Nevertheless, Castro frequently abducts his daughters and keeps them from their mother." This is what we got from going through court documents in Cleveland.

Coming up next, as we await this happy homecoming, Gina DeJesus' arrival back home, I will take you to the street where these three women were abducted all these years ago. I retrace their steps and made some chilling discoveries along the way, including this one.


BALDWIN: Look at what we just found. This is one of potentially an original missing poster. It says underneath here, where is Gina?



BALDWIN: Welcome back here to Cleveland and back to our special live coverage here in Ohio. We are potentially minutes away from seeing Gina DeJesus. These are live pictures. Look at the balloons. And the balloons, let me tell you the police presence, wanting to make sure the media stay on one side of the street, the family eagerly awaiting this 23-year-old's return at this home. Signs of "welcome home, Gina." So we have, obviously, that story covered for you on the ground and from the air. So as soon as we start to see any activity there, so exciting here in Cleveland after this woman has been gone, basically, apparently living as a prisoner for 10 years here in this home, we will take you back to that.

Now, these women, these three young women who were kidnapped and held captive for a decade, they are free. They are returning home, as we see. They're reuniting with their families. The three suspects, the Castro brothers, could be charged at any moment. Amanda Berry, Georginia "Gina" DeJesus and Michele Knight disappeared from the same Cleveland street. Would you believe it's called Lorain Avenue. This all happened three year in a row. It was August of '02, and then April of '03, and then April of '04. The home where they escaped Monday, three miles away. And so, today, I just took a walk down the street, this Lorain Avenue, just to get a sense of where they were last seen. Take a look.


BALDWIN: Here in Cleveland, this is 106th Street and Lorain Avenue. And this, here, is the last time anyone saw Michele Knight. The year was 2002. She was just 21 years old. Fast-forward one year, six blocks away, right here on Lorain Avenue, and Amanda Berry had just finished her evening shift here at work. This was the eve of her 17th birthday. And she was last seen walking along the street in her Burger King uniform.

And then exactly one year later, 14-year-old Gina DeJesus is plucked off of the same street here, Lorain Avenue, where Michele and Amanda were taken. And we've just come to this corner and just found this. I want to show you. Underneath all of this is a sign that says, "where is Gina?" This is possibly one of the original missing posters, down to the details. "Georgina DeJesus was last seen wearing a white jacket, sky blue sweater, blue jeans and a cream shirt." The details of her disappearance down to this very corner. And the reward that was offered.

And finally, look at this, a picture of her as a baby and this handwritten note, "this is my baby, happy birthday, Gina, love mom."

And today, now that we know how the story has ended, celebratory balloons and a sign down here, "thank you, God, Gina is free."

LISA ROSE: I just -- I'm just overwhelmed with emotions. I don't know what to say. I'm just so happy for the family and that she's OK.

BALDWIN: For a decade, these three girls, once strangers, were united by fear. And now, Amanda Berry is home. Her neighbors, her family, the world wants to hear from her. But for now, when it comes to Amanda Berry and these other two young women, the world has to wait.


BALDWIN: Several neighbors told CNN that they did notice some strange happenings inside this home here on Seymour Avenue years ago. Even picked up the phone and called police. So next we're asking a member of the Cleveland Police Department about how departments such as these sort of go through some of these tips and leads, how they're followed up on.

Plus, we are awaiting the exciting arrival of Gina DeJesus.


BALDWIN: As the investigation into these horrific crimes move forward, more information is coming out about this house here on Seymour Avenue. And several neighbors in the area say they told police strange things were happening at the Castro home and police, they say, didn't do a thing about it.


ISRAEL LUGO, NEIGHBOR OF SUSPECT: In fact like November of 2011, there was an incident when my niece was going to work and my sister was walking back. She told me there's somebody upstairs in Ariel's house yelling. And I'm saying, sis, there's -- Ariel doesn't have any girls living in there. So I walk back over and (INAUDIBLE). then all of a sudden (INAUDIBLE) and I felt like a little bad. So I called the police. The cops come, I don't know, maybe a half hour later on. They only go there for about five, 10 minutes. About 20 (ph) good times. No answer. They look around. They can't see through the windows, so what they do usually, they get back in the squad car and they leave.


BALDWIN: There are other reports from other neighbors here in the neighborhood indicating that they saw a naked woman in the backyard of the home playing with one of these elderly men. They claim to have made calls to police. But a Cleveland Police spokesman told CNN specifically that they had zero records of any calls of that nature. They went back, they looked, they couldn't find it. Today, Commander Thomas McCartney from the Cleveland Police Department responded to the questions of, could more have been done here? Here's what he said.


CMDR. THOMAS MCCARTNEY, CLEVELAND POLICE: I believe that the information that we were given, that we executed as best we could, and the tactics we used, I do not question the investigation. I will not question. Certainly there's always could have, would have, should have. Anybody who's human would have that. But I think the Cleveland Division of Police has done a very good job.


BALDWIN: Want to bring in Cleveland Police Detective Jeff Follmer.

So, welcome.


BALDWIN: And before we talk about these four officers, I know you want to give credit where credit is due from a couple of days ago. Let me just be clear to the viewers, this isn't your district, you're not working this case, we're not really able to talk to those officers quite, quite yet. But that said, how do you respond, detective, to the criticism that, you know, in the multiple times the police were called to this house and they never once went inside?

FOLLMER: Well, we don't know that they were called to the house. So far nothing has been there to back it up. Everybody's going to come out of the woodwork right now and say they called the police. But until we find some facts to say that they were in that house or by that house for a call, you know, it's not true. We take missing children very seriously. And Amanda and all the other girls were a - if it was a media case, the Cleveland FBI, we all work professionally together. Any tips that come in, they're going to follow up on those.

BALDWIN: I want to follow up on some of these tips that were called in, but let me just give you the opportunity. So four of your officers, four Cleveland Police officers, were the ones who went in this home here on Seymour Avenue, what was this now, two days ago. Tell me what they said, how it was seeing these women, what they saw in the home. FOLLMER: Oh, it was -- they did a heroic job. And Amanda did a heroic job too, getting them there. You know, they went inside the house. They had to break down a door. They didn't know what was on the other side. They didn't know if there were suspects in there. They didn't care. They went in there to save these girls. Four officers went in there. They did a heroic job. They went upstairs. Two of the females were up there. They just hugged them and there was an emotional time up there. They were just happy to see the police and the police to get them out of there. Our officers acted very professionally, got them to the EMS wagon, they went to metro with them and that's when all the emotions started flowing into the police officers.

BALDWIN: So this is the first time I'm hearing this. So Amanda Berry is the one, as we all know now her story, and she's the one who comes through the front door. But so you're telling me that these Cleveland officers found these two other women, presumably Michele and Gina, on the top floor of this home.

FOLLMER: Yes, they were found inside the house and it's like - that's -- yes, they were found inside the house and they just did a heroic job keeping their professionalism, getting down there, keeping their cool. Mind you, they're searching the house for suspects and to come across these girls and to have to switch everything up to victims now to get them out, they just did a great job.

BALDWIN: Did they tell you what the girls were saying to them at the time?

FOLLMER: No, I don't know that. We really didn't get into that. I just found out the details. And I just did want to go and mention that, you know, Amanda did a great job, the call taker, who's taking a lot of criticism, did a great job. The dispatcher got everything out, did a great job. They got everything done in a timely manner where there were four lives saved and three people placed under arrest. And all together they worked as a team and put everybody -- the bad guys in jail and all - and saved these other people.

BALDWIN: What is - you know what the - I've heard different numbers as far as specifics. These three bad guys, as you call them, are not charged yet. I've heard three different things. I've heard have to be charged within 36 hours, 48 or 72. Set it straight for me.

FOLLMER: No, I don't know what the FBI and what --


FOLLMER: You know, that's the FBI.

BALDWIN: OK. Back to the -- all these tips, right, and you say all of these people are coming out of the woodwork after the fact. Let me ask you specifically. I talked to a woman here yesterday, and she was the woman who we had on camera saying, yes, you know, I live next door to this home, I saw this naked fully formed, fully matured woman in the back with a man. She started yelling. It seemed wrong. The man ran. The girl ran inside. She says - she says she called police. What - forgive me, I'm hearing myself, so I'm going to take that out. She said she called police. Now, I know police are saying, no, specifically, we don't have a record of that. But what is the process that -- on the other end of the phone, with all these tips, how do police take them all?

FOLLMER: Well, a lot of these tips would go -- if it's a call like that, it would go into a call taker and it goes to a dispatcher where they keep the records. And so if our manager is says there's no record of it, you know, they're pretty thorough about these things, about keeping every record of every call and address that's been called from (ph).

BALDWIN: Every record of every call.

FOLLMER: We have a computer system where we can put an address in and you put in protocols of service, and that's updated every year. It's been around for a little while. So unless there's, you know, a call for service or a 911 tape, you know, I can't see it being true. But you never know what happened out there. But, you know, they're telling us that - management's telling us that it didn't happen.

BALDWIN: Again, another example, a neighbor called, saw some fishy. This was 2011. No one was home. As we've seen, there are boarded up windows. Police didn't go inside. Do we know -- you may not know why not in that case, but at what point do police bang down a door and go in?

FOLLMER: Well, you need a --

BALDWIN: A search warrant?

FOLLMER: Yes, you need a search warrant. You need probable cause. You need something to go into the house because -

BALDWIN: They didn't have that.

FOLLMER: Then we're on the other side of the law then if we're not following our rules out here as far as with law enforcement.

BALDWIN: Yes. These are just questions people here in Cleveland are asking and I'm glad we have you to help us understand sort of the - obviously the legal processes. And, seriously, congratulations to those officers for doing what they did in freeing these three women.


BALDWIN: We appreciate it.

Just quickly, if you can hear and see what's happening in between us, there's this massive group of people. There's been this prayer vigil that's up and sort of started happening here on Seymour Avenue, I'm sure because of these three women. And, again, police, sheriff office, still here in front of this home on Seymour Avenue.