San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Child Abduction Unit just reunited a mother and her son, who have not seen or known each other for the past 21 years.
In an emotional reunion, Maria Mancia wept as she hugged her long lost son, Steve Hernandez. According to a report from ABC News, Steve was taken by his father, Valentin Hernandez.
Mancia, Valentin and a toddler Steve were residing in Rancho Cucamonga, California in 1995. The parents were having issues with their relationship at the time. One day, when Mancia came home from work, she found that their house was ransacked, and Valentin was gone together with their son.
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Initially, Mancia thought that they were robbed. Nevertheless, she noticed that the only things missing were that of her son’s. To make matters worse, he took all the photographs of Steve, even his ultrasound.
The mother could only write relatives in El Salvador so that she could ask for a photograph of her son.
“That became the only photograph she had of Steve for the last 21 years,” said Investigator Karen Cragg of the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Child Abduction. She also led the case.
The photograph was the only remembrance Mancia had of her little boy. The blurring picture of her son became the only memory she had held on to for the past two decades.
“It’s all I had of him,” Mancia said to The Sun. “It was always with me.”
US mother reunited with son abducted in 1995: Maria Mancia had been left with just a single… https://t.co/g3rueWNGnT
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The mother shared that she initially tried calling members of Valentin’s family, but they were not saying anything. It was at that point that she reported parental kidnapping to the San Bernardino County sheriff’s officials.
Years passed, and no word was heard about Steve.
Around five years ago, the cold case was endorsed to the San Bernardino Child Abduction Unit. It was then that Cragg and Michelle Faxon began working to finally find Steve. Luck came when they received a tip that Mancia’s little boy, who is now 22 years old, was possibly in Puebla, Mexico.
“We weren’t sure, but with help with our partners at the (Department of Justice), we were able to track him down,” shared Cragg.
When they got the information, Valentin had gone missing. The San Bernardino Child Abduction Unit used the report to reach out to Steve, who was studying law at the University of Puebla.
The authorities revealed that they initially told Steve that they were looking into the circumstances of his father’s disappearance. In the course of their interview, they found that his history had similarities with that of Mancia’s missing son.
After that, the San Bernardino Child Abduction Unit was able to get hold of Steve’s DNA sample. They matched it with that of Mancia’s early last month.
According to Faxon, the Department of Justice told them that the testing could take a month. However, the result was out after just two weeks.
Cragg immediately drove to Mancia’s house after learning about the news, according to The Blaze.
“It was like she didn’t believe us at first,” shared Cragg. “She began to cry. She said she couldn’t believe he was still alive.”
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“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 him,” she shared about the San Bernardino Child Abduction Unit’s visit to her last week.
Steve, who is an American citizen, was then taken to the U.S. so he could meet his mother. The authorities in both Mexico and the U.S. worked together to make the reunion possible.
According to Steve, his father made him believe that his mother abandoned them. With the reunion, he now knows better.
“I lived all these years without my mother, then to find out she’s alive in another country, it’s emotional,” he said.
The reunion has not only brought him to his mother, but to a new family as well. Mancia now has an 8-year-old son named Daniel, who is excited to bring his big brother to a well-known fast-food chain.
[Christopher Lee/San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office via AP]