SAN BERNARDINO – Tears of both joy and sadness flowed down a mother’s cheeks when reuniting with her abducted son 20 years after his abduction. The mother, 42-year-old Maria Mancia has searched for her son non-stop throughout the years he was missing. Steve Hernandez, now 22 years old, was abducted by his father, Valentin Hernandez when he was only 18 months old.
At the time of the abduction in 1995, the couple was living in Rancho Cucamonga with their 18-month-old son. “The couple was having problems in their relationship at the time of Steve’s abduction,” said Sr. Investigator Cragg. “The mother went to work one day, only to return home to an empty residence with the father and child gone.”
During the abduction 54-year-old, Valentin Hernandez not only took the boy but took all photos, paperwork even the ultrasound San Bernardino County District Attorney officials said. Mancia told officials that in order to get a photo of her son, she had to write her aunt in El Salvador to request a photo that she had sent to her. “That became the only photograph she had of Steve for the last twenty-one years,” said Sr. Investigator Cragg.
Investigators have followed leads that came in tracking Valentin Hernandez and Steve to several different parts of the United States. Finally in February 2016 investigators received a tip that Steve Hernandez was possibly living in Puebla, Mexico.
“We weren’t positive we located the right person,” said Sr. Investigator Cragg. “So we used a ruse and told Steve we were conducting an investigation related to the disappearance of his father. During the conversation, we found several similarities in his history that matched that of our missing boy.”
Cragg and the Investigative Technician, Michelle Faxon needed a DNA sample from Steve to find out if he was the missing boy. The two persuaded the Department of Justice as well as Mexican officials to assist them in the collection of a DNA sample from Steve, who was, in fact, living in Puebla Mexico. A swab from both Steve and Maria were sent to a lab to determine if he was, in fact, her missing son.
Finally, there was a break in the 20-year-old case on May 31st when investigators were advised that Steve was Maria’s missing son. “We contacted the mother and she was overcome with emotion and very thankful,” said Sr. Investigator Cragg. “She had never given up after all these years but had accepted the fact that she may never know her son. Maria never gave up, and neither did our office. Our committed teamwork paid off and we finally found Steve. To be able to return him to his country and his mother is an indescribable honor.”
On Thursday morning, Steven who was too young at the time of the abduction to remember much about his mother was able to see her for the first time in 20 years. The two met along with the district attorney investigators at the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office.
There is a $750,000 warrant for kidnapping and child abduction for Valentin Hernandez, who unverified reports stated is now deceased.
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