International Law

Law student in Mexico is reunited with his US mom 20 years after kidnapping

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More than 20 years after her 1-year-old son was taken by his father from their home in 1995, along with all photographs of the boy, a Southern California mom has been reunited with her child—who is now a young man and had been about to start a University of Puebla law program in Mexico when police first located him.

A cold-case unit began reinvestigating the parental kidnapping in 2011 and started knocking on doors, the San Bernardino Sun reports. In February of this year, they got a tip that Steve Hernandez, now 22, and his dad might be in Puebla, Mexico.

Proceeding carefully, investigators from the San Bernardino County sheriff’s office worked with the U.S. Department of Justice to track Hernandez down in Puebla. As it happened, his father at that point had recently disappeared (the dad is now believed to be dead), and investigators used the father’s disappearance as a ruse to begin a conversation with the son.

A DNA sample Hernandez gave authorities was matched to his mother, Maria Mancia, 42, after a mere two weeks last month, and both mom and son were then told. They reunited for the first time since 1995 at the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office on Thursday. Hernandez plans to stay with his newfound family, including younger siblings, as he learns English and—he hopes—then eventually resumes his legal studies in the U.S., the newspaper reports.

Although Hernandez is a U.S. citizen, he doesn’t have a passport. But with the help of U.S. authorities, he was able to cross the border without difficulty.

Having been told by his father’s family that his mother had abandoned him, “it was a shock,” he said, to learn 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. But it’s good. It’s good.”

The Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times (sub. req.) also have stories.

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