A man stolen as a baby met his mother 41 years later after he believed he was abandoned. Travis Tolliver, 41, was finally reunited with his 61-year-old mother, Nelly Reyes, in his birthplace of Chile. Their reunion is a heartfelt one that emerged after decades of separation and sadness.
In a CNN exclusive report, Reyes had been waiting for her biological son to show up at Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport in Santiago for their first meeting in 41 years. A nervous Tolliver wasn't sure what to expect, but when he saw her holding a sign for him at the terminal, the mother and son embraced for a very long time.
The man stolen as a baby 41 years ago knew he was adopted, but he had no idea he was actually stolen from his native country. As a result, he had abandonment issues, believing that his biological mother didn't want him.
Now that he knows the truth, he hopes to put those traumatic issues behind him.
"You know, I wasn't given up willingly like I thought for all these years, so that makes my heart feel wonderful; but it's just coming to terms with that. This whole thing still seems unreal to me."Tolliver had been raised by a couple in Tacoma, Washington. They didn't realize he was stolen and not given up for adoption. A manipulative and calculating hospital staff worked with a priest to ensure babies would get taken away from their moms and illegally adopted out.
Travis Tolliver was born on November 15, 1973 at Van Buren Hospital in the coastal city of Valparaíso when his mother was 19. A nurse told her that the newborn had a heart condition and was likely to die. A few hours later Nelly Reyes was told her son had died. She was never shown his body or given a death certificate.
Prosecutor Mario Carroza investigated Gerardo Joannon -- a priest accused of acting as a collaborating between "well-to-do families in Chile and adoptive parents as a part of a scheme also involving doctors, nurses and nuns in the 1970s," according to the report.
Carroza says the priest belongs to the Sacred Hearts congregation. He was suspected of crimes of theft of minors, falsification of documents, and usurpation of identity. Since it was around 15 to 20 years ago that his crimes were committed, the statute of limitations had run their course; he couldn't be prosecuted.
Even at this point, there's no proof of who took Tolliver from his mother all those years ago. The man who was stolen as a baby and his mother went through their share of emotional turmoil the past 41 years. Tolliver took a chance on investigating for himself what had really happened. He knew there were stories about children being stolen from their parents in Chile, and he was curious to know if he was one of them.
Through DNA testing and aggressive research, Tolliver was able to find his biological mother. This was hard on his adoptive mother, but Tolliver insists that she's always going to be his mom.
"But she's always going to be my mom -- it's just that I have two now -- she raised me. I am who I am because of what she did for me. She's always going to have a place in my heart and it's not like I'm replacing her or anything like that."Tolliver wants to catch up on what he's missed out on all his life. He wants to learn about Chile and welcomes the gift of finding the mother he once believed gave him up for adoption. He's very happy with the family he wound up with, but said he always felt out of place since they had blonde hair and blue eyes. It was one of those things where he just knew it was obvious he wasn't blood-related.
The long lost member of the Reyes family has been acquainting himself with his siblings after all these years as well. Tolliver says he feels whole and complete with this happy ending.
Maybe many others see this story about a man who was stolen as a baby and meeting up with his mom 41 years later as a possibility the same thing happened to them. It was just last month that a 76-year-old woman was reunited with her daughter who was stolen from her as a baby 49 years ago, USA Today reported.
[Photo Credit: Commons Wikimedia]