A California mother was reunited with her son who was kidnapped over 20 years ago on Thursday, according to the Associated Press.
Steve Hernandez wipes a tear from his mother's eye after seeing her for the first time in 20 years in San Diego, Calif., on Thursday, June 9, 2016. (Christopher Lee/San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office via AP)
In 1995, Maria Mancia returned home from work to find both her 18-month-old son and his father, Valentin Hernandez, missing.
She immediately reported her son missing and investigators have been trying to locate him ever since.
Mancia also discovered that Hernandez also took all of the pictures of their son, including her ultrasound picture. She had to write to a relative to ask for a copy of a picture of her son.
In this undated photo released by the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office shows a family photo of Steve Hernandez, pictured in the only photograph Maria Mancia had of her kidnapped son for the last 20 years. (San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office via AP)
Investigator Karen Cragg, who led the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Child Abduction Unit’s search, told the AP that “That became the only photograph she had of Steve for the last 21 years.”
Mancia’s son, Steve Hernandez, now 22, was discovered living in Puebla, Mexico.
"We used a ruse to contact him,” Cragg said. “We told him we were investigating his father and we needed his DNA to help locate his father. We didn't want to scare him off. We weren't sure what the circumstances were down there. We had to tread very carefully."
Steve Hernandez hugs his mother after seeing her for the first time in 20 years in San Diego, Calif., on Thursday, June 9, 2016. Steve Hernandez was abducted by his father Valentin Hernandez from their Rancho Cucamonga residence in 1995 when he was 18-months-old. Since that time, 42-year-old Maria Mancia had searched for her son to no avail. The boy, Steve Hernandez, now a man of about 22, has been found in Mexico. On Thursday he was brought to the U.S. to meet his mother.Authorities interviewed the boy and took a DNA swab. The facts of his life, and the DNA, matched. (Christopher Lee/San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office via AP)
According to the AP, once Cragg received the positive DNA test, she and her partner “drove straight to Mancia's house.”
"It was like she didn't believe us at first," Cragg said. "She began to cry. She said she couldn't believe he was still alive."
Steve Hernandez is a U.S. citizen, and authorities in both the U.S. and Mexico worked to quickly reunite him with his mother.
According to the AP, Hernandez’s father, Valentin Hernandez, told him that his mother abandoned them, and he now knows that isn’t the case.
Valentin Hernandez is “missing and believed to be dead,” according to the AP.
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