Who Is Gina DeJesus?
Gina DeJesus became a kidnapping statistic when she disappeared at age 14 while walking home from school. She was imprisoned with two other young women, Michelle Knight and Amanda Berry, by former school bus driver Ariel Castro, the estranged father of one of DeJesus's friends. After a nearly 10-year period of captivity, which included alleged beatings and starvation, DeJesus and her fellow captors were rescued by neighbors in 2013.
Georgina "Gina" DeJesus was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on April 1, 1990. Her tight-knit family included father Felix DeJesus, mother Nancy Ruiz, sister Mayra and brother Ricardo. As a 13-year-old, DeJesus walked the almost 40 blocks from her home in Cleveland to Wilbur Wright Middle School, passing through commercial areas mixed with rundown areas frequented by prostitutes.
While walking home from school on April 2, 2004, a 5'1", 14-year-old DeJesus disappeared after being offered a ride by former school bus driver Castro — ironically the father of one of DeJesus's friends, Arlene Castro (who was the last to see DeJesus alive prior to her disappearance). DeJesus' mother had given her $1.25 to take the bus home, but DeJesus decided to walk — as she had many times before — keeping the money for gum and snacks instead. But rather than take DeJesus home, Castro took her to a house he owned in the depressed Tremont area of Cleveland; she was held captive in Castro's basement.
Because no one witnessed DeJesus's abduction, an AMBER Alert wasn't issued after she was reported missing, which made her father angry. As time went on, the DeJesus family continually worked with police and the FBI to try to find DeJesus, including posting flyers around town and holding vigils with neighborhood groups. The teen was also featured on the national television program America's Most Wanted for three consecutive years — in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
Over the next nine years, DeJesus would be held, alternatively with ropes and chains, with two other young women, Knight and Berry (who eventually would give birth to a daughter in captivity). Castro reportedly covered DeJesus's head with a bag when he raped her because he knew her family well and because she was a friend of his daughter's.
Another ironic event came in 2004, when Castro's estranged son, Anthony, then a journalism student, wrote about DeJesus's disappearance and its impact on the community in an article that was published in a Cleveland-area community newspaper.
On May 6, 2013, DeJesus and her fellow captors were rescued after Castro left the house to run errands and Berry managed to flee to the front door of the house, where she screamed for help; two neighborhood men, Angel Cordero and Charles Ramsey, responded to her screams. Berry and her 6-year-old daughter, Jocelyn, were first to emerge from the house, and DeJesus and Knight were freed shortly thereafter—leaving their nearly decade-long prison behind.
Because DeJesus was so young (14) when she was abducted, she, along with her fellow captors, face a long road to recovery. Specifically for DeJesus, due to being held with chains for long stretches of time, some bones in her neck are fused, causing her restricted movement.
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