Former boyfriend of Amanda Berry talks about his years of being questioned by authorities

FBI, police tracked down leads immediately in 2003

CLEVELAND - Amanda Berry's boyfriend when she disappeared said he was considered a suspect in the case, and investigators questioned him for years.

On a sunny afternoon this week, Danilo Diaz, a now 26-year-old man, was working on his car in the garage of his home on Cleveland's west side. But he has a story to tell about how he became the focus of the investigation into Amanda Berry's disappearance for years.

He was a 16-year-old boy who had just gotten his temporary driver's license when he was questioned numerous times by the FBI and Cleveland police in the 2003 disappearance.

Because Diaz was never charged, he initially did not want to go on camera. Later, he changed his mind.

Diaz took a break from working on the car to talk with me about his teenage years spent under the microscope. He shies away from going on camera, but told me I can tell his story about what made his teenage years stressful.

First, he's extremely relieved that all of the women are free and safe from captivity.

He said because he was Amanda's boyfriend for a month and a half before she vanished, he was immediately questioned by authorities, and he drove a white car at the time.

Witnesses told police they believe they saw Amanda get into a white car the night she disappeared in April 2003. Diaz said two of his friends drove white cars at the time and they were also questioned.

A source confirmed that the then 16-year-old Diaz was questioned because he was supposed to pick Amanda up from work at the Burger King the night she disappeared. Diaz told me he understood being questioned at first, that the boyfriend is going to get questioned, but he wasn't prepared for how much scrutiny.

Diaz took lie detector tests and was told he failed them. Investigators towed his white car and searched it.

Then a year later, when Gina DeJesus went missing in 2004, Diaz walked out of his house on Cleveland's west side and was surrounded again by police, who had the entire neighborhood blocked off.

Neighbors started clapping because they believed police caught the guy, he remembered. Diaz said the FBI questioned him until he turned 18 years old.

The FBI confirmed that Amanda's boyfriend was questioned after her disappearance, but he was cleared.

Diaz said police then continued to question him on and off during traffic stops.

For years, Diaz went to parties with Ariel Castro's nephews. He drank beers with kidnapping suspect Ariel Castro at those parties, but never knew Ariel Castro by name back then. It wasn't until Castro's recent arrest that he realized who Castro was.

He shook his head for a minute, taken aback, realizing he was unknowingly hanging out with the alleged abductor and man in retrospect who caused the man's teenage years to be spent being questioned by authorities.

"He's a sick individual," said Diaz, referring to Castro. "He's a waste of space."

Diaz met Amanda while going into the Burger King where she worked, but never went back to the nearby fast food restaurant after being questioned, even though he wanted to. It was too uncomfortable.

Shortly after Amanda disappeared, a phone call was placed from Amanda's cellphone to her family. The man said Amanda was OK. Diaz said investigators traced the cellphone tower ping back to the general vicinity of his west side neighborhood and he was questioned again.

Diaz's mom told him he was, to a much lesser degree, also a victim of Castro.

"I grew numb, I grew up, I tried to live my life," explained Diaz, who has not spoken with Amanda since her daring escape.

As I walked away down the long driveway, the now 26-year-old man who spoke in a quiet calm voice, got out his tools and started working on his car again.

It's something a 16-year-old boy with a brand new driver's license would have loved to spend time doing.

Watch Paul Kiska's report Thurday at 6 p.m. on NewsChannel5.

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