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Maria Mancia and her son, Steve Hernandez, reunited after 21 years (San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office)


California mother reunited with kidnapped son after 21 years

June 10, 2016

On Thursday, Maria Mancia, a 42-year-old woman from Rialto, California, was reunited with her son, Steve Hernandez, whom she had not seen since he had been kidnapped 21 years ago. When he was just 18 months old, back in 1995, Hernandez was abducted by his own father (who was living with Mancia at the time), who ransacked the house and took all his identifying paperwork and photos with him. Mancia reported the case to authorities, but they were unable to track down the two. She had to ask a relative in El Salvador for a photograph of her son — which for 21 years would be the only picture she had of her son. “All that time I didn’t know what had happened to him,” Mancia told the San Bernardino Sun.

In February, however, investigators in the San Bernardino County district attorney’s child abduction unit received a tip that the two were possibly living in Puebla, Mexico. While the father had gone missing, they were able to get in touch with the now 22-year-old son. “We used a ruse to contact him. We told him we were investigating his father and we needed his DNA to help locate his father,” investigator Karen Cragg explained to the Associated Press. “We didn’t want to scare him off. We weren’t sure what the circumstances were down there. We had to tread very carefully.” Mancia had not been informed of these developments, in order to avoid disappointment, but when the DNA samples matched, Cragg was able to break the happy news: “It was like she didn’t believe us at first,” Cragg told AP. “She began to cry. She said she couldn’t believe he was still alive.”

Mother and son were finally reunited on Thursday, at the DA’s office, where Mancia couldn’t stop crying as she hugged her son for the first time in over two decades. “Now this anguish I’ve carried is gone now that I have my son back,” she told KABC-TV. “I spent 21 years looking for him not knowing anything.” Hernandez said his father had always told him that his mother had abandoned him, so he was shocked to find out the truth. “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,” he said. “But it’s good. It’s good.”

Read the full story at The Huffington Post.