‘Believe’

Seemingly against all odds, mother and son reunited after 31 years apart

Lyneth Mann-Lewis speaks with reporters in Toronto about being reunited with her son Jermaine after 31 years. (Twitter / Toronto Police Department)

See, sometimes there is good news in the world.

A Toronto woman was reunited with her son this week after 31 years. Lyneth Mann-Lewis says that back in 1987 her then-husband abducted their son, Jermaine Mann, who was just a toddler at the time, and she hadn’t seen him since. But all these years, she never gave up hope that she’d see him again — a welcome outcome that brought a flood of emotions as Mann-Lewis addressed reporters at a press conference on Monday.

Allan Mann Jr. allegedly squired away the boy during a court-ordered visit and fled to the U.S., where they lived in the Bronx, North Carolina, and finally just outside Hartford, Connecticut. At the news conference, Mann-Lewis recalled that one of the first things her son, now 33, told her at their first meeting was, “Oh mommy, you have my eyes.” She said that he then hugged and kissed her.

This composite image shows a photo of Jermaine Mann at the time of his disappearance alongside an age enhanced image. Jermaine was abducted by his father in 1987 when he was just 21 months old. Jermaine’s father, Allan Mann Jr., was arrested Friday in Connecticut, where the pair had been living under aliases in a quiet suburb near Hartford. (Missing Children Society of Canada)

After crossing into the U.S. illegally, Allan Mann Jr. used the alias Hailee R. DeSouza and fake Texas birth certificates to evade authorities, and allegedly told his son that his mother had died decades ago, according to The Hartford Courant. He was arrested in Vernon, Connecticut last week, according to authorities. Mann now faces charges in the U.S. over making false statements on applications to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and is expected to be extradited to Toronto to face additional charges.

“This is one of those rare cases that tugs at your heart strings,” Christina Scaringi, the special agent in charge for HUD’s office of inspector general, told The Hartford Courant. “Not only did we, working collectively, get this alleged bad actor off the street, but we played a role in reuniting an unjustly separated family.”

Over more than three decades, Mann-Lewis didn’t give up hope that her son was still alive — tips and conversations with family members eventually helped track them down, along with tight collaboration between investigators in the U.S. and Canada. But hope was ultimately what kept the case alive across three decades. “Hope is what drives all of the police services and all of the individuals who search relentlessly,” Amanda Pick of the Missing Children Society of Canada told the press.

Hoping that she and her son’s reunion might be a salve to other parents of missing children, Mann-Lewis told reporters, “Believe that all things are possible.” For more on the story, watch the video below.

Read the full story at CBC News and The Hartford Courant.

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