Families Maintained a ‘Decade of Hope’

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CLEVELAND — It was a promise kept for over a decade.  The families of Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus vowed to keep their loved ones in the headlines and hearts of Clevelanders.

The women went missing as teenagers and were found alive Monday along with a third woman, Michelle Knight.

Berry escaped a Seymour Avenue home after getting the attention of a neighbor who helped to break down the door.

Law enforcement officers arrived soon after to assist the others.

Three brothers, ages 54, 52 and 50, were taken into police custody in connection with the missing women.  One has been identified as Ariel Castro.

It was the news the families had been publicly hoping and praying for.

They held vigil after vigil over the years and never stopped pleading for their loved ones’ return.

A look back at their interviews show an astounding faith in an outcome that almost seemed unthinkable, yet came to be.

“We want (Amanda) to know we love her. We want her to know we’re never going to stop looking for her,” longtime family friend Victoria Dickens said at a vigil marking nine years since Berry’s disappearance.  “Where Amanda’s at right now, she’s not at peace.  Her family’s not at peace. And we just want her to come home. It’s been way too long.”

A dead-end lead in July 2012 was another example of the family’s endurance.

A search was launched after an inmate from the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville sent law enforcement a letter indicating that he knew the location of Berry’s body.

Cleveland Police and the FBI dug up a vacant lot at West 30th Street and Wade Avenue, but the tip turned out to be a hoax.

Berry’s sister, Beth Serrano, told Fox 8 News she was relieved nothing was found during the search.

“I’m grateful it’s not her because I still have hope and I can still pray that my sister is coming home,” she said.

Nancy Ruiz, DeJesus’ mother, said, “I will tell Beth to keep the faith because Amanda is out there, just like Gina.”

Those family members and friends were able to experience the miracle of the women’s recovery, but sadly, Berry’s mother did not.  She died in 2006.

“(Amanda) was a really good girl, to be 16 … she works, she stays home, she don’t run around,” Louwana Miller, Berry’s mother, said through tears in an interview with Fox 8.

Berry, DeJesus and Knight were taken to MetroHealth Medical Center for evaluation Monday.  They were released Tuesday morning.

Berry was last seen April 21, 2003 as she was headed home from her job at the Burger King on West 105th Street and Lorain Avenue.

It was the day before her 17th birthday.

DeJesus was 14 years old when she went missing on April 2, 2004.  She left school on Lorain Avenue and never made it home.

Fox 8 News is working to learn details of Knight’s disappearance.

Also still unknown are the details of the decade the women spent on Seymour Avenue, just miles from where they were last seen.

Rely on Fox 8 News and FOX8.com for updates as this story develops.

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