After apparently being held captive for years, three missing women were found alive on Monday in a house on Cleveland’s west side. Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus vanished as teenagers in 2002, 2003, and 2004, respectively. While authorities believed that Knight had run away from home, Berry and DeJesus had been the subject of much press attention over the past decade. (The Plain Dealer has dubbed them “two of Cleveland's most famous missing persons.”) A 52-year-old school bus driver named Ariel Castro and his two brothers have been arrested in connection with the case.
This is still a breaking story, and much remains unknown—we’ll be getting a lot more information about Berry, Knight, DeJesus, and the Castros over the next few days. But, unfortunately, there’s one name we’re not hearing: Ashley Summers.
Ashley Summers was 14 years old when she disappeared in 2007 from the same Cleveland neighborhood where Berry, DeJesus, and Knight went missing. She was presumed to have run away from home after a family dispute, but when she was never seen or heard from again, authorities began to suspect she was being held against her will. Summers’ grandmother claimed she saw Ashley in a car in November 2007, with short, dyed-blonde hair. In a 2009 Oprah segment about the disappearances of Summers, Berry, and DeJesus, FBI Special Agent Phil Torsney seemed to discount this, saying “there’s been no legitimate sighting of Ashley since she left her house.”
Authorities have long speculated that the disappearances of Berry, DeJesus, and Summers were linked, and that “one or more of the girls may have been forced into prostitution.” Looking at a map of the neighborhood from which they all disappeared, you can see why the crimes could’ve been related. Before yesterday’s rescue, Berry was last seen at a Burger King at W. 110th St. and Lorain Ave. in Cleveland, while DeJesus was last seen five blocks away, at W. 105th St. and Lorain. Ashley Summers was reported missing from her family’s house at W. 96th St. and Madison Ave., about a mile and a half from where Berry and DeJesus disappeared. The neighborhood is about three and a half miles away from Ariel Castro’s house at 2207 Seymour Ave., where Berry, DeJesus, and Knight were found yesterday—a quick jaunt down I-90. (In a 2009 blog post, Summers’ step-grandmother said that Ashley actually went missing from her great uncle’s house on Holmden Ave. in Cleveland’s west side. If that was the case, Holmden Ave. is less than a mile away from 2207 Seymour Ave.)
Did Ariel Castro and his brothers have anything to do with Summers’ disappearance? At this point there’s no indication that they did, and it would be irresponsible to jump to any conclusions. But you’d have to imagine that Summers’ family is asking that question today, and hoping they get some good news.
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