As many parents will attest, having children can fundamentally change your outlook on life. Suddenly, you’re no longer the most important person in your life—your kids are. You would do anything you could to keep them safe and to protect them. Still, sometimes families can go through trauma which changes these dynamics and makes them less safe for the children involved.
In some of these cases, the consequences can be severe.
One of these stories dates all the way back to 1995.
Maria Mancia and her boyfriend Valentin Hernandez were living together with their 18-month-old son, Steve Hernandez. While Maria was gone at work, Valentin their son and left, gathering up all of his clothes, belongings, family photos and even the ultrasound pictures before disappearing.
When Maria got home and noticed what had happened, she reported to the police her son had been kidnapped.
Because Valentin had taken everything out of their home, police had very few clues to go on while they were searching for Steve.
Still, Maria had one picture of her son that she kept with her—the only photo that she had left. Although she brought whatever evidence and help she could to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Child Abduction Unit, police were unable to find the little boy anywhere. Eventually, the trail went cold and police set the case aside.
Still, Maria never stopped thinking about her lost little boy.
Although most kidnapping cases go unresolved if they aren’t solved quickly, this one was a special case.
More than 20 years later, investigators Karen Cragg and Michelle Faxon came to Maria’s door to let her know some information about the case. Still, Maria’s initial reaction was uncertain:
“Some detectives came to my house, and at first I was scared because I didn’t know what was going on, but then they told me they found them. They found Steven.”
As it turned out, the detectives had gotten a lead that the lost little boy was now living in Mexico.
After following up on it, they had the suspected child, now living in Puebla, Mexico, complete a DNA test. When the results came back, they were able to confirm it: he was indeed Maria Mancia’s long-lost son! To get the results, the detectives used a little bit of misdirection, according to Cragg:
“We weren’t positive we located the right person so we used a ruse and told Steve we were conducting an investigation related to the disappearance of his father.”
After interviewing Steven, the detectives discovered that he didn’t know that his mother was still in the picture.
Although he had known that his father had run away with him to Mexico when he was little, he was under the impression that it was after his mother abandoned the family. When the detectives finally brought the news back to Maria—with the DNA tests in their hand—she broke down in tears. According to Cragg, the moment was incredible to behold:
“It’s a moment I cannot describe to you. I’m a mother myself. I just couldn’t let this go.”
The mother and son finally met face-to-face before a press conference in San Bernardino.
Maria’s son Steve was now 22 years old and taller than she was. The two embraced and many tears were shed during the happy reunion. For his part, Steven said the entire situation came as a surprise to him:
“It was a shock . . . I didn’t know if she was alive or not and to get a call that says they found my mother and that she had been looking for me, it was like a cold bucket of water. But it’s good. It’s good.”
While in Mexico, Steven had been studying as a law student. Still, as a US citizen, he now plans to continue his legal career in America. His mother, Maria, was even more healed from the exchange:
“Now this anguish I’ve carried is gone now that I have my son back. I spent 21 years looking for him not knowing anything.”
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