When Maria Mancia saw her son for the first time after 21 years, she couldn’t believe it. “All that time I didn’t know what had happened to him,” she said.
Her son, Steve Hernandez was only 18 months old when he was taken away from his mother, by his own father, Valentin Hernandez. At the time, his father removed every single picture of him from his home– even his ultrasound photo.
Steve’s mother remembers it clearly– the day she lost her son from her southern California home in 1995. It was a tough time for her. The only way to show authorities what her son looked like was to find a relative who happened to have a picture.
“It’s all I had of him,” she said. “It was always with me.”
The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Child Abduction Unit was assigned to finding Steve. They had little luck for years but finally came across a useful tip that led them towards Puebla, Mexico. They ended up finding Steve, who was now 22 years old. His father was missing or was thought dead.
“It was a shock,” Steve said. “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.”
When Steve returned to his mother, he brought back photos of himself, because his mother only had the one that she was able to recover from a family member.
While in Mexico, Steve studied law and hopes to attend law school in the United States.
“Now this anguish I’ve carried is gone now that I have my son back,” Mancia said. “I spent 21 years looking for him not knowing anything.”
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