CLEVELAND — With a police cruiser approaching from behind, Jasmina Baldrich thought she was going to get pulled over. She had no idea she was about to witness the rescue that would captivate the world.
Baldrich was driving down West 25th Street Monday evening and turned left at the first available side street. It was Seymour Avenue.
The Cleveland street soon became known as the place where Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were held as prisoners for a decade.
The story started to unravel when Baldrich and a friend heard a woman identify herself to police.
“And the cop asked her, ‘What’s your name?’ And Amanda was like, ‘I’m Amanda Berry.’ And me and my friend looked at each other like … like no, this is impossible because she had been gone for so long,” Baldrich said.
As they sat in disbelief, police officers worked to pry open the front door of the home and then rushed inside.
Berry, 27, had escaped on her own when she caught the attention of neighbors who helped to break part of the door, but DeJesus and Knight had not made it out yet.
Baldrich was there to see them emerge. She said the women were covered by hoodies and then ushered into ambulances.
“Maybe it was meant for us to see, because everybody doesn’t get to see somebody get saved, especially after ten years,” Baldrich told Fox 8 News. “Amanda was talking to a cop, and I saw tears fall from her face, and it just broke my heart.”
The tears didn’t end there.
“Gina’s mom came and gave the detective a hug and they both started crying,” Baldrich said.
Like most people in the area, Baldrich knew Amanda Berry’s name. Berry had gone missing in April 2003, one day before her 17th birthday.
In the years that followed, her family worked to keep her story in the headlines in hopes that the community would remain vigilant in the effort to find her.
DeJesus, 23, and Knight, 32, went missing in 2004 and 2002 respectively.
Baldrich used her cell phone to record the officers entering the home, but after rolling for a few seconds, it ran out of power.
“I never thought I would actually see Amanda, Michelle and Gina to get saved. Even though I wish I would have recorded it, but I seen it with my mind so it’s always going to be in my heart, no matter what,” Baldrich said.
The experience made an impression on Baldrich, who now feels a closeness to the women and hopes to meet them one day.
“Sometimes when I sit and watch the news I just sit and cry because I’m like wow, I seen all this happen,” she said.
The alleged captor, Ariel Castro, was charged with kidnapping and rape. His bond was set at $8 million. Additional charges could be filed.
The women and a 6-year-old who escaped from the home were taken to MetroHealth Medical Center for evaluation and released.
Paternity tests revealed Castro, 52, was the father.
“Very strong, that’s the only word I can say, they’re very strong,” Baldrich said of Berry, DeJesus and Knight, adding she will always keep the video on her phone.