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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

In 2005, Kidnapper’s Daughter Spoke of Seeing Her Friend for the Last Time

A year after 14-year-old Gina DeJesus vanished in 2004 while walking home from her middle school, America’s Most Wanted interviewed her classmate, one of the last people believed to have seen her alive. On Tuesday, the DeJesus family learned that the classmate, Arlene Castro, is also the daughter of the Cleveland man accused of kidnapping Ms. DeJesus and hiding her and two other women in his basement for years.

Ms. DeJesus and the other two women, Amanda Berry and Michele Knight, were found alive on Monday night in the home of Ms. Castro’s father, Ariel Castro, after a neighbor responded to Ms. Berry’s screams for help.

Ms. Castro, now 22, could not be reached for comment. She is not a suspect in the case that led to the arrest of her father, who is 52, and his two brothers, Pedro, 54, and Oneil, 50, as my colleagues Christine Hauser and Trip Gabriel have reported.

In another twist in the case, The Lede reported earlier on Tuesday that the suspect’s son, Ariel, who goes by the name Anthony Castro, interviewed Ms. DeJesus’ mother in 2004 and wrote about the missing person case for a local newspaper while he was a journalism student at Bowling Green State University.

On the America’s Most Wanted episode, Arlene Castro said that she and Ms. DeJesus had been walking home from school and had hoped to spend the afternoon at Ms. DeJesus’ home. But Ms. Castro’s mother, who was living at a different address from her father, told her that she had to come home.

“I decided to call my mom, ask her,” Arlene Castro said in the interview. Ms. DeJesus gave her 50 cents to call her mother. “She said no, I can’t go over to her house. Well, O.K., I will talk to you later. She just walked.”

The reporter for America’s Most Wanted said Ms. DeJesus had headed home on foot because, after giving her friend 50 cents, she did not have enough money left to take a bus.

The Castros were among the first Hispanic families to settle in Cleveland, immigrating there from Puerto Rico just after World War II, The Plain Dealer reported.

They found work in steel mills and automobile plants, The Plain Dealer reported, but some family members also opened small businesses and invested in rental properties on the city’s lower West Side.