'Best of friends': Neighbors describe close bond between victim, Castro's daughter
Classmates and best friends, from left, Kayla Rogers, Gina DeJesus and Arlene Castro, who were classmates at Wilbur Wright Middle School in 2004.
By Matthew DeLuca, Staff Writer, NBC News
The three girls were "like Three Musketeers" in sixth grade. Now, the father of one of them, Ariel Castro, has been charged with kidnapping one of the other "musketeers" and holding her captive for a decade with two other women, and raping all three, in a westside Cleveland home. The women were rescued on Monday.
Friends Kayla Rogers, Arlene Castro and Georgina "Gina" DeJesus attended Wilbur Wright Middle School in Cleveland together. In their sixth-grade yearbook they are pictured pages apart, with the smiles of young teenagers.
John Makely / NBC News
Leonard Allmon looks on Wednesday, May 8, 2013, as his daughter Kayla Rogers flips through the pages of her Wilbur Wright Middle School yearbook to show photos of her best friends Arlene Castro and Gina DeJesus.
"They were the best of the best of the best of friends," said Lupe Collins, whose daughter Jackie, 22, was also friends with the girls. She called Arlene "Ariana."
Kayla met Gina in elementary school, and they both met Arlene in middle school. The girls realized they all hung out in the same neighborhood around the DeJesus home on West 71st Street. That home was ringed by squad cars and police tape on Wednesday afternoon as family members and close friends gathered. Dozens of balloons decorated the house's front porch, and a banner on the side of the house proclaimed: "Welcome Home Gina!" as the kidnap victim returned to the world she'd left behind nearly 10 years ago.
Arlene Castro and Gina DeJesus were "pretty close," said Lupe's daughter, the girls' friend Jackie Collins, 22. They spent most of their time together doing "normal middle-school things," she said.
Yet much about why DeJesus, who along with two other women -- Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight -- might have been targeted to be kidnapped and held in a house on Seymour Avenue remained unclear two days after their escape.
John Makely / NBC News
Gina DeJesus in a yearbook photo on which her friend Kayla Rogers wrote "I love you" after Gina went missing.
Arlene Castro was interviewed for an "America's Most Wanted" video in 2005 in which she said she called her mom to say she had been invited to the DeJesus house on the afternoon the girl disappeared. Castro's mother -- separated from Ariel Castro and living her Arlene elsewhere -- said she could not go. The video also mentions the disappearance of Amanda Berry, who vanished only blocks away.
"And so I told her I couldn't, and she said, 'Well, OK, I'll talk to you later,'" Castro says in the video. DeJesus wasn't heard from again for 10 years.
Going to DeJesus' house after school would not have been unusual, their friend and fellow "musketeer" Kayla Rogers, 22, told NBC News. She had spent plenty of time hanging out in the neighborhood with the two other girls. Rogers' father, Leonard Allmon, remembers the girls as happy-go-lucky teens -- and said that the tragedy struck so close to his daughter still chills him.
"Gina loved to dance. She was over here dancing and listening to music, just having a good time," Allmon, 45, said. "It could have been my daughter. It could have been my daughter because they all used to walk home together."
"We used to hang out on Gina's porch," Rogers said. "We had a couple sleepovers."
The girls did what most kids in the neighborhood did, Rogers said. They hung out around each others' houses and at school. They listened to Spanish music and rap and practiced their dance moves.
The three would "listen to music, talk on the phone, talk about boys," Rogers said. "We were gossips. Gossip girls."
"I remember going to Wilbur Wright and the girls running up the hallways like girls do," said Collins, mother of Gina's friend Jackie. "You know how they hang out, push boys and run."
The DeJesus and Castro families have known each other for years, according to Gina DeJesus' great uncle Noel Ruiz Sr. On Tuesday, he sipped a Corona in a corner store owned by Julio Castro, Ariel Castro's uncle, only about half a block from where the three girls, including DeJesus, were held.
"We used to throw parties here," Ruiz said of Castro's store, where he said he's been coming for decades.
Members of the Castro and DeJesus families also mixed at a 14th birthday party for Gina DeJesus shortly before she disappeared in 2004, Kayla Rogers said. Members of DeJesus' large extended family were there, she said, as well as Arlene Castro.
Rogers said she never saw much of her friend Arlene's father except at his job as a school bus driver.
"He was my bus driver, also," Rogers said. "He'd wink at me and … ugh."
Rogers said she used to call Arlene "Rosie," for her rosy cheeks. They fell out of touch after DeJesus disappeared, she said, and she has not heard from Arlene in nearly 10 years.
She also said she has not seen DeJesus since she was rescued by police Monday night. The image in her mind of the girl is 10 years out of date at this point. "She would always wear her hair curly. She would swoop it over and wear it in a ponytail," Rogers said.
Looking at DeJesus' photo in the yearbook, the young teen beaming and wearing her eyeglasses, Rogers wished away the years.
"I hope she looks exactly the same," Rogers said. "I hope she does."
Chilling details of Ariel Castro's letter revealed; He starved, punched Knight until she miscarried (updated reports)
Ariel Castro, a 52-year-old former school bus driver suspected of keeping three women captive inside his house for a decade, was charged Wednesday with four counts of kidnapping - covering the captives and the daughter born to one of them - and three counts of rape, against all three women. (AP Photo/Cleveland Police Department)
"I just got a copy of a letter written by Ariel Castro in 2004," Taylor tweeted "Cops found it in his house. He says 'I am a sexual predator. I need help.'"
FOX 8 in Cleveland reports sources said when Castro would have guests, he would put the women in the attic, tie them up and tape their mouths, then play loud music.
The women, according to the sources, were also allegedly beaten and forced to have sex. The same sources said Berry delivered her baby inside the house.
“All I can say to Gina, to Amanda, to Michelle is on behalf of the Castro family, we are so sorry for everything you went through,” Maria Castro, a cousin of Ariel, said, according to FOX 8. “We’re sorry for everything you suffered. I am a mom and I can’t even imagine.”
Guidette, what's worse is our beloved hero Why Charles why!?!?! I was rooting for you, WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU! I wonder if McDonalds will pull back whatever they were going to "keep in touch" about
Amanda Berry’s hero Charles Ramsey jailed for domestic violence, twice
Charles Ramsey, another imperfect hero, to put it lightly. TheSmoking Gun has found that Charles Ramsey, the man who saved kidnap victim Amanda Berry, and two other women – all who were held for ten years, and sexually abused by their captors – has three domestic violence convictions that resulted in two separate prison terms.
Smoking gun has Ramsey’s mugshot as well.
Having said that, one hopes this is a sign that the man has changed and is now doing “good” in the very area he fell short before. As I said, one hopes.
Charles Ramsey famously saved Amanda Berry when heard the woman screaming bloody murder from the house next door, and, with the help of a friend, kicked her door in, permitting Berry to escape. He then called 911,in a colorful phone call, to alert the police that the other women who were still being held captive needed help as well.
Smoking Gun reports the first domestic violence charge came in 1997. Ramsey was convicted, and while awaiting sentencing was arrested again for domestic violence in 1998. He got six months jail time.
He also seemed to skip court a lot, including violating probation, which repeatedly got him into trouble.
He got arrested for domestic violence again in 2003 – the same year Amanda Berry et. al. were kidnapped. Charles Ramsey was sentenced to eight months of prison for that crime.
Snippet of Charles Ramsey police report, via the Smoking Gun
The Smoking Gun also found what they say are photos of Ramsey at a younger age posted by his now-ex wife. She reportedly wanted to show that Ramsey didn’t always look like he does today.
In other Amanda Berry news, her sister spoke today in a short but emotional appearance – but basically asked for privacy for the family.
Well thank God for the hispanic men who saved them! Charles needs to get his life, at least he didn't take the reward money. But maybe thats because he knew the hispanic men would show themselves for that mula, illegals or not.
they trying to catch charles riding dirty, white america cant have a perfect black hero.
the daughter that was best friends with one of the victims, and the daughter who slit her childs throat is 2 different peoeple right ? i wonder if the best friend knew about what was going on in that house
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