The missing persons cases of Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight, and Georgina “Gina” DeJesus attracted international, regional and local attention when the three women were found May 6 a few blocks away from where they each went missing in Cleveland about a decade ago.
The 52-year-old man who allegedly kidnapped the women, Ariel Castro, has been charged with four counts of kidnapping, including one against Berry’s 6-year-old daughter, and three counts of rape.
Preliminary results of DNA testing confirmed that Castro is the father of Berry’s daughter, according to a May 10 press release from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
Berry, 27 years old, went missing in 2003, after 32-year-old Knight disappeared in 2002 and before 23-year-old DeJesus went missing in 2004.
While searches for missing persons often make it into the news, the finding of these three women seems to have been particularly highlighted because of how long they were missing.
Melissa Brooks, a third-year in industrial and systems engineering at Ohio State, is from North Olmsted, a suburb of Cleveland. She said she doesn’t remember the initial abductions, but her mom does.
“My mom remembers hearing about it on the news and distinctly remembers the names of the girls,” Brooks said.
Brooks thinks the finding of Berry, Knight and DeJesus prompted heightened coverage because of the rarity of their situation.
“There was so much attention on them now because they were found and they were alive, which unfortunately is rare after being missing for so long,” Brooks said.
Tom Carlin, a second-year in computer engineering at OSU, lives a few blocks away Wilbur Wright Middle School, the school that DeJesus was walking home from when she was abducted.
Carlin said he thinks the case has led to other missing persons cases being focused on in the news.
“I think missing people always provide good news segments, but the recent highlighting of missing people is definitely because of the recent Cleveland happenings,” Carlin said.
Some of the other cases that have received increased attention in the Cleveland area include Akron native Taylor Robinson, a 19-year-old who has been missing since May 3, and Cleveland native Ashley Summers who went missing in 2007 when she was 14.
DeWine said in a press release Thursday he thinks it is the duty of elected officials to reduce crime in Ohio.
“It’s the responsibility of elected leaders and community members to work together and find solutions to stopping violent career criminals from terrorizing neighborhoods,” DeWine said.
His solution is a “Safe Neighborhoods Initiative,” to be launched in Akron, which targets “offenders with a history of gun violence, work(s) with them to prevent future violent crime, and lead(s) them to resources that will assist them in breaking the crime cycle,” according to the release.
Allison Harley, a third-year in social work, grew up in Chardon, east of downtown Cleveland. She said she wishes DeWine had done something sooner.
“It’s so sad that something so terrible has to happen before we do something about Ohio’s dangerous neighborhoods, but it is still good to hear that DeWine has committed to decreasing crime,” Harley said.
Harley also mentioned the possible positive effects the initiative could have if it were implemented in Columbus.
“Targeting violent criminals and giving them opportunities to break the cycle of violence could seriously decrease crime in Franklin county, specifically in the off-campus area,” Harley said.
Melissa Prax is an intern at Cleveland’s local NBC station, WKYC.