In 1995, things were rocky between Maria Mancia and her husband, Valentin Hernandez—and one day after work, Mancia returned to their California apartment to find her husband and their 18-month-old son, Steven, gone, along with all the boy's things. Hernandez took all the photos of Steven, even an ultrasound image, that could be used to identify him; Mancia had to contact family in El Salvador to get the sole picture of her son she's treasured all the years since. She reported the kidnapping to the San Bernardino County sheriff's office, but over the years, she tried to wrap her head around the thought that she might never see him again. Then, last week, detectives came to her house: "They told me they found him. They found Steven," Mancia, 42, tells the San Bernardino Sun.
The 22-year-old Steven was found living in Mexico in February after investigators received a tip, the AP reports. Authorities told him they were investigating Hernandez's father, who had recently disappeared himself, and the background information Steven gave them was similar to that of the missing child they were looking for. Eventually, he was positively identified via DNA, and on Thursday, he reunited with his long-lost mom at the San Bernardino DA's office, wiping tears from her face as they hugged. "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," Hernandez tells the Sun. "But it’s good. It’s good." He's a US citizen and plans to continue his law education in the US, but first, his 8-year-old brother wants to take him to McDonald's. (Read more uplifting news stories.)