Cleveland police have started searching properties near the home where three missing women were imprisoned for a decade after Michelle Knight told them there could be other girls.
Michelle Knight, who was found at the Cleveland home on Monday after being held against her will for more than 10 years, said that there was another girl at the home around 10 years ago.
But Michelle Knight, who herself was kidnapped in 2002, said the victim then disappeared.
In police interviews she added that she did not know how many other women were in the house because they were all locked in separate rooms, Fox News reported.
Along with his alleged victims, only Ariel Castro lived at the home at Seymour Avenue. His older brother Pedro Castro lived at his mother’s home, while Onil, the youngest of the three brothers, lived alone in his own home “somewhere in the lower west side”, police said.
The details could give hope to the family of Ashley Nicole Summers, who was 14 when she vanished on July 6, 2007 in the same neighborhood from where Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus were taken.
Initially Ashley Summers was considered a runaway as had she lived with her great-uncle and they had argued prior to her disappearance.
But a year later the police and FBI believed Ashley Summers was an “endangered juvenile” who could be “being held again her will”. In 2009, the FBI said they suspected a link between Ashley Summers’ disappearance and those of Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus.
Ashley Summers’ physical appearance and the proximity of her home to the other disappearances lead investigators to suspect the cases were linked and that all three might have been kidnapped by the same man.
Special Agent Vicki Anderson, of the FBI Cleveland Division told Cleveland.com on Tuesday that Ashley remains in their thoughts as they gather evidence at Ariel Castro’s Seymore Avenue home.
“We are keeping Ashley in our thoughts as we go every step of the way,” she said.
“Whether it is something we find at the house, or someone seeing the stories remembers something, we continue our search for Ashley.”
A cadaver dog, along with various law enforcement officers, searched Ariel Castro’s Cleveland home on Tuesday, said Vicki Anderson. But police revealed they had not found any human remains at the house despite fears up to five babies could be buried in the garden.
But police did confirm on Wednesday that they found ties and chains inside the home.
“We have confirmation that they were bound, and there (were) chains and ropes in the home,” Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath said, adding that authorities did not miss opportunities to find them.
Prior to the disclosure of the naming of the women discovered on Monday, Ashley Summers’ family had briefly thought their daughter could be amongst those discovered.
“We’re hoping that it’s connected, and they knew where she was,” her aunt Debra Summers told CNN.
“We’re hoping for a miracle.”
The Summers family is renewing their efforts to publicize Ashley’s disappearance.
The FBI’s missing person website says Ashley Summers has a tattoo of “Gene” enclosed in a heart on her upper arm, and her birthday is June 16, 1993, making her 19 years old.
Investigators will speak to Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight to see if they know anything about Summers’ disappearance.
On Tuesday, Cleveland Police said: “Every single lead was followed up on no matter how small. We dug up yards, canvassed neighborhoods. [The] real hero is Amanda Berry.”
Until now the search for the missing women had been fruitless, a series of false leads and bitter disappointment for the desperate families.
Michelle Knight, who was 20 years old when she went missing in August 2002, was last seen at a cousin’s house near West 106th Street and Lorain Avenue.
Three years later, in April 2003, Amanda Berry, disappeared after leaving her job at a Burger King – at West 110th Street and Lorain. It was the day before her 17th birthday.
And a year later, Gina DeJesus, then 14 years old, was last seen leaving her middle school at West 105th Street and Lorain.
All three were found safe on Monday night after Amanda Berry bolted from a home on Seymour Avenue, about three miles from where they were last seen.
Amanda Berry told police that she and the other girls were being held prisoner by Ariel Castro, 52, who has been arrested along with his two brothers, Pedro and Onil, on suspicion of kidnapping.
Cadaver dogs appeared at the home following fears babies were born inside the Cleveland house. At least five children may have born at the house, police sources told NewsChannel5.
One victim suffered up to three miscarriages because she was so malnourished, while other sources told WKYC the captors would beat the pregnant women, so that the babies would not survive.