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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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May 7th, 2014
06:11 PM ET

Cleveland hero: I talk to the girls through prayer

(CNN) – Charles Ramsey became an unlikely national hero last year, when he helped rescue three girls – Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight, and Gina DeJesus – that were missing for more than ten years.

Ramsey is out with a new book, "Dead Giveaway," detailing how that day changed him.

When a detective told him who he had just rescued, "my heart just dropped," says Ramsey.

Everyone in Cleveland knew about Berry and DeJesus (Knight's family did not report her as missing), says Ramsey. As the neighbor to captor Ariel Castro's house of horrors, Ramsey was shocked the women were nearby all along, hidden in plain sight. He says he lives with the guilt of not recognizing something was amiss sooner.

"How can that girl ... be next door, wherever she was, and me not see her? And I walked past this house every day and every night," Ramsey said in an interview with CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper."

"How did I miss anything?" he says.

Ramsey has not spoken to the women since that fateful day, saying instead, "I talk to them through prayers."

In the book, he writes that Castro, at least on the outside, was an ideal neighbor. Later, Ramsey writes "there were dots there, just never connected." Castro often brought his neighbor home-cooked meals, which Ramsey later found out were actually prepared by the women imprisoned in Castro's home.

In the wake of the rescue, people took exceptional interest in Ramsey's story – his face was on T-shirts, iPhone games were made, an interview he gave to a local news station was auto tuned into a song. There was even a rumor that McDonald's would give him free Big Macs for life.

But Ramsey says he has seen little in the way of compensation, remuneration, or reward money. Two McDonald's locations gave him $2,000 in cash, and another $2,000 in gift certificates. Ramsey said he gave it all away "to every homeless person and kid I ran into."

CNN's Jason Seher contributed to this report.

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