(NBC News) The nightmare could have been over nine years ago.
In 2004, Cleveland police showed up at Ariel Castro's home on Seymour Avenue after Castro, a school bus driver, left behind one of his young passengers.
When no one answered, the cops left - never realizing that behind the door were two women who had vanished off the streets and would remain captive until they were rescued this week, along with a third woman missing for almost a decade.
As the city celebrated the rescue of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, authorities said they were trying to figure out how Castro and two brothers had kept them out of sight for so long.
"We're happy that they have returned to us," Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said at a Tuesday news conference after the women were released from the hospital and before the Castro brothers were charged.
--Sarah Dallof reports