Meet Cleveland’s newest hero, Charles Ramsey, who saw a young woman in trouble and acted to rescue her. In fact, Ramsey’s quick action ended up rescuing three women missing for years — two more than a decade — in a bizarre but happy end to three mysteries:

“This girl is kicking the door and screaming,” Ramsey told NBC station WKYC-TV. “So I go over there … and I say, ‘Can I help? What’s going on?’ And she says, ‘I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been in this house a long time. I want to leave right now.'”

Ramsey, who lived across the street and let the woman use his phone to call 911, described being stunned when he realized that the woman was Amanda Berry, who had been missing for 10 years.

Ramsey told reporters he he had barbecued with the 52-year-old man who lived in the house. Police said that the man and two of his brothers, ages 50 and 54, had been arrested.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer explains further:

Aurora Marti, 75, who lives across the street from Castro, said she was sitting on her neighbor’s front porch talking Monday evening when an arm reached out of the front door at Castro’s house.

“She was waving her arm and saying, ‘Help me! Help me!’ ” Marti recalled through her daughter, who translated from her mother’s Spanish.

The captive woman identified herself as Amanda Berry and said she was kidnapped 10 years ago.

Neighbor Charles Ramsey said he also heard a girl screaming, “Help, help me out.” He said the girl looked familiar. He said he called 9-1-1.

Ramsey said Castro took off running while Ramsey kicked and broke the bottom of a door, allowing Berry to crawl out.

Police arrested Castro at a nearby McDonald’s restaurant and brought the other two women out of the house, witnesses said.

CBS has more on the victims:

Berry disappeared at age 16 on April 21, 2003, when she called her sister to say she was getting a ride home from her job at a Burger King. DeJesus went missing at age 14 on her way home from school about a year later. They were found just a few miles from where they had gone missing.

Police said Knight went missing in 2002 and is 32 now. They didn’t provide current ages for Berry or DeJesus. …

The women’s loved ones said they hadn’t given up hope of seeing them again.

A childhood friend of DeJesus, Kayla Rogers, said she couldn’t wait to hug her.

“I’ve been praying, never forgot about her, ever,” Rogers told The Plain Dealer newspaper.

Berry’s cousin, Tasheena Mitchell, told the newspaper she couldn’t wait to have Berry in her arms.

“I’m going to hold her, and I’m going to squeeze her and I probably won’t let her go,” she said.

Unfortunately, the one person who would have been most thrilled by Berry’s return won’t be there to see her:

Berry’s mother, Louwana Miller, who had been hospitalized for months with pancreatitis and other ailments, died in March 2006. She had spent the previous three years looking for her daughter, whose disappearance took a toll as her health steadily deteriorated, family and friends said.

Councilwoman Dona Brady said she had spent many hours with Miller, who never gave up hope that her daughter was alive.

“She literally died of a broken heart,” Brady said.

How did the perpetrator(s) get away with this for so long in the middle of a big city like Cleveland?  The neighbors were stunned.  Ramsey said he’s barbecued with the man on occasion, and others were similarly amazed and horrified:

Charlie Czorba, a Seymour Avenue resident of 25 years, told The Plain Dealer that he was stunned that the women had lived in the house for so long without outsiders knowing.

“This is our own backyard,” he told the newspaper. “These girls were locked up in our own backyard.”

The main suspect is reportedly a bus driver for the Cleveland school district.  So far names have not been officially released, but the Plain Dealer and others are reporting names based on information from witnesses.  Police have three men under arrest, the homeowner and two of his brothers.

Expect to hear much more about this case in the weeks ahead, but for now let’s just celebrate with Clevelanders that three young women presumed dead are alive, and now free of their tormentors.

Update: And this is more good news:

Don’t think that this is the end, though — these young women will need lots of counseling, therapy, and love from their community for years to come. At least they are alive and free to receive it.

Tags: crime