Kidnap victim’s father takes up new challenge

Jeff Stacklin
The Lookout

Now that his daughter, Gina DeJesus, has returned home safely, Felix DeJesus has a new mission. And it’s possibly much bigger than the one he’s been on since Gina went missing in 2004.

Speaking outside his home on the city’s west side shortly after his daughter, now 23, came home on Wednesday, DeJesus said he will become an advocate for the safe return of all children.

“My job is never done,” DeJesus said. “Now, I’ve become an activist to help find the rest of the children that are missing.”

It’s a problem that’s plaguing the nation, he said. He called on the hundreds of neighbors and community members gathered outside his home, as well as people across the nation, to watch out for their kids—and their neighbors’ kids.

“Too many kids come up missing,” DeJesus said. “We have a problem across this nation, and it’s going to take all of us to fix this problem.”

On Monday, Amanda Berry, 27, was able to escape the home where she had been held captive since April 2003. After she called police, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, 32, who went missing in 2002, were freed, as well.

Police on Thursday charged Ariel Castro, 52, the owner of the home where the women were kept, with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape. Castro’s brothers, Pedro, 54, and Onil, 50, were also taken into custody but were not charged.

At the DeJesus home on Wednesday, Gina DeJesus’ aunt, Sandra Ruiz, reminded her neighbors that a fourth west side Cleveland girl, Ashley Summers, who at age 14 went missing in 2007, is still missing.

“Now we must rally together to look for Ashley Summers,” Ruiz told the crowd.

Police continue to investigate Summers’ disappearance but so far have not linked her case with those of Berry, Knight, and Gina DeJesus.

Felix DeJesus, though, said that the community must remain vigilant and not give up.

“I knew my daughter was out there alive,” DeJesus said. “I knew she needed me. I never gave up.”