Kidnapping is a terrifying crime for victims and the victims’ families. While a lot of kidnappings are never solved, or end badly, there are a few cases where children go missing, but are miraculously reunited with their parents again, sometimes after decades of being apart. In these cases, not only is it amazing that they were able to reunite, but the lengths and the coincidences that led to the reunions are nothing short of astonishing.
10. Marisa Bocanegra
In 1977, Marisa Bocanegra was adopted at six weeks old out of Columbia and she grew up in Burnsville, Minnesota. She was given an American name and her adopted family provided for her, but she never really felt like she fit in. This led to tension in the family and she moved out when she was 16.
Marisa knew very little about her heritage, but she did know that she was from Columbia, and in 2010, she started using her birth surname, Bocanegra. In 2012, she posted a Facebook note about her search on a board dedicated to adoptions from Columbia. Two years later, in 2014, a well-known private investigator read her entry and said he would be able to connect her with her biological family. So Marisa agreed, and within a week she got a phone call from the PI. She was at a softball game when the PI called to say that he was with Marisa’s birth mother and that she had never forgotten her.
It turns out that when Marisa was born on June 13, 1977, in Bogota, Colombia, her mother was offered an adoption form, which was common at the time for unwed mothers and she refused to sign it. But then later when she was drowsy with pain medication, she says a nurse got her to scribble a line on a blank piece of paper. Little did she know, but that signature was used to take Marisa away. At first, Marisa was held in a foster home and her mother could visit her once a week. That lasted for six weeks, and then the next week her mother came to visit and she found that her baby was gone.
After speaking on the phone, Marisa started to get caught up with her family in Colombia over video chat. She currently has a page set up for donations so that she can visit her family after being apart for 38 years.
9. Delimar Vera Cuevas
On the night of December 15, 1997, in north Philadelphia, a fire was started in the two-story row house where Luz Cuevas lived with her three children. After the fire broke out, Luz went into the nursery, which is where 10-day-old Delimar Vera was sleeping, but Luz couldn’t find her. Luz was eventually forced out of the house by the smoke and burns on her face. Her other two children got out, but no trace of the baby was found. Investigators concluded that the baby probably had been incinerated. They also concluded that the fire was started by an overheated extension cord attached to a space heater. Despite the ruling, Luz never really believed that her baby died in the fire. After all, Delimar wasn’t in her crib when Luz went to look for her.
The years went on, and then in January 2004, Luz was attending the birthday party for a child of a friend when she saw a six-year-old girl that had a striking resemblance to herself and to her other children. Curious, Luz talked to the girl and told her that she had gum in her hair. Luz told her to hold still while she got it out. Luz used this as an opportunity to get some hair samples, which she took to a state legislator and she was put in touch with the police. The police launched an investigation, which involved testing the DNA from the hair sample and the tests proved that the girl at the party was in fact Luz missing daughter, Delimar.
The woman who kidnapped Delimar, Carolyn Correa, 41, lived in Willingboro, New Jersey, and she had been raising Delimar as her own along with her three other children. When the police confronted Correa, she fled, leaving her other children behind. A short time later she arrested, and convicted. In 2005, she was sentenced to nine to 30 years in prison.
Delimar was reunited with her family, and in 2008 her story was made into a made-for-TV movie called Little Girl Lost: The Delimar Vera Story.
8. Byron Anthony “Bizzy Bone” McCane II
In 1980, when Byron Anthony McCane II was four, his stepfather, Byron McCabe, kidnapped him and his two older sisters, Hope and Heather, from their home where they lived with their mother in Columbus, Ohio. McCabe, who was a former fullback with the Pittsburgh Steelers, told the three children that their mother and their grandmother were dead. Over the next two years, McCabe moved the three children state-to-state, from shelters to apartments to cars to motels. The younger Byron said that during this time he was also physically and sexually abused. In 1983, McCabe, Byron, Hope, and Heather were living on a Native American reservation in Oklahoma. While living there, a neighbor watched the made-for-TV movie, Adam, about the kidnapping and murder of six-year-old Adam Walsh. At the end of the film there were pictures of missing children along with a number to call if anyone had any information. One of the pictures was Byron, Hope, and Heather. The neighbor called the police and the children were reunited with their mother.
While Byron did go on to have some troubles growing up, he eventually became rapper Bizzy Bone, who is a member of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony.
7. Fusako Sano
In November 1990, nine-year-old Fusako Sano was watching some kids play baseball in a schoolyard in Niigata, which is about 160 miles northwest of Tokyo. After she left the game, the fourth grader seemingly vanished into thin air. She wouldn’t be found until nine years and two months later, when police came to the hospital because there was an unemployed man making a disturbance. When they arrived, a teenage girl that was dressed like a man with a traditional male’s haircut, who was with the man, approached the police. She told them that nine years ago, she was kidnapped by the man as she was walking. She had been locked up in his room and that was the first time she had been outside of the house. The police identified the man as Nobuyuki Sato, who had been on probation at the time of the kidnapping because he tried to kidnap another girl in 1989.
The police went to Sato’s home and found that he lived with his mother and their home was 600 yards away from the police station. His mother claimed she didn’t know about Fusako as she had been forbidden onto the second floor of the house since Sato had been in school. Fusako said that for the first few months she was tied up and bound. Sato would punish her by punching her or he used a stun gun on her. She also said that when she was first kidnapped, he threatened her with a knife. Fusako said at first she did try to escape, but after being punished, she simply gave up. Most of the time she listened to the radio and in the last year of her captivity she was allowed to watch TV. But then she found herself being punished if she did not record the horse races properly.
Fusako was in good health, but was hospitalized for exhaustion. In the hospital, the 19-year-old woman was reunited with her family she hadn’t seen in nine years. Sato was given a 14 year sentence for the kidnapping.
6. Shawn Hornbeck
On October 6, 2002, 11-year-old Shawn Hornbeck was riding his bike to his friend’s home in Richwoods, Missouri. Shawn never made it to his friend’s; he was grabbed off the street by Michael Devlin. For the first month, Devlin was quite abusive to Shawn. He tied him to a futon and put duct tape over his mouth. After that, Shawn got more and more freedom, even riding his bike and playing with other children without Devlin watching him, yet, Shawn didn’t flee. Shawn’s parents searched frantically for him and were desperate for information about their son. They even appeared on The Montel Williams Show where they spoke with “psychic” and grief parasite, Sylvia Browne, who told them that Shawn was dead.
Over four years later, on January 8, 2007, Devlin abducted another boy, 13-year-old William “Ben” Ownby. Ben was heading home from school in Beaufort, Missouri when he went missing. Four days later, the truck used in both kidnappings was traced back to Devlin. The police went to his apartment and both boys were found alive.
Both Ben and Shawn were reunited with their families, but still have a lot of healing to do. Shawn was away for four years and was 15 when he returned to his family Devlin is currently serving 74 life sentences, plus an additional 170 years.
5. Huang Jan
In 1990, five-year-old Huang Jan was kidnapped by child traffickers as he was walking to kindergarten in Yaojia Village, Sichuan Province, China. He was taken over 930 miles away and adopted by a family in the Fujian province and he was given the name Luo Gang. While his adopted family did love him, Huang always thought of his hometown. He tried often to remember what the city looked like on his last day. The only things that he knew for sure were that his hometown had two bridges, there was a flood in the village that might have destroyed one of the bridges, and he lived along a motorway. In 2012, he drew a picture of his hometown from a 23-year-old memory and posted it on a website dedicated to missing children. Besides the map, he also posted anything he could remember about his house and what type of food they ate. Over the next few months, based on suggestions, he had narrowed the area down to the Sichuan province, which is populated with 80 million people in a 193,000 square mile area. Just for some perspective, that is twice the size of the United Kingdom.
From there, he looked up rainfall in areas during the timeframe he had been kidnapped. Then he learned that in 1990, there were only two motorways in the province at the time. This is when he turned to Google Maps, and using satellite photos he followed the motorways and on April 26, 2013, he found Yaojia Village; a town with two bridges and one had been reconstructed in 1989. Huang had found his hometown! Huang’s parents and his adopted sister were notified that Huang had been found. On May 9, Huang flew and met his village. The whole village turned out and Huang’s mother made him dinner. After DNA tests confirmed that Huang was the kidnapped boy, he moved in with his biological parents. In 2014, Huang planned to marry his girlfriend and both his biological and his adopted families were to be invited. Hopefully for their sake, that wasn’t too awkward.
4. Carlina White
Nejdra Nance grew up having a fairly normal life, although she wondered why she looked nothing like her mother, Ann Pettway, or her brother, who was 10 years her junior. When Nejdra was a teenager, she became pregnant and she asked her mother for a copy of her birth certificate so she could get prenatal care. That is when Nejdra learned that her mother wasn’t her biological mother. Pettway told her that her real mother was a drug addict who had left Nejdra in her care.
In December 2010, Nejdra was 23 and living in Atlanta, and she decided to check out the web site of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. There she found the report on Carlina White, who was kidnapped from a hospital in Harlem 17 days after being born on August 4, 1987. When Nejdra looked at the pictures of Carlina White, she noticed the baby in the picture looked just like her when she baby, and it also looked like her daughter when she was an infant.
Nejdra called the Center’s hotline, and they contacted the police and Nejdra’s biological family. In January 2011, a DNA test was performed and it confirmed that Nejdra was, in fact, Carlina White, the missing child of Joy White and Carl Tyson. The couple had brought Carlina to the hospital because she had a high fever. Pettway wore a nurse’s uniform and snuck out with the baby.
Pettway was convicted of kidnapping, and in 2012, she was given 12-years in prison. Carlina’s story was the basis for the Lifetime movie, Abducted: The Carlina White Story.
3. Marx Panama Moriarty Barnes
Steve Carter knew he had been adopted from an orphanage in Honolulu when he was four, but there were a few oddities regarding his birth certificate. It had been made a year after he was born and it listed the wrong physical description; it said he was half native, but he had blond hair and blue eyes. When Steve heard about the story of Carlina White in 2011, he logged onto the same site, the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and he came across an age progressed photo of Marx Panama Moriarty Barnes, who had been reported kidnapped in Honolulu in 1977. The photo had been progressed from a picture of Marx, who was just five months old, to the age of 26, and the picture looked just like Steve as an adult. So Steve called the police in Honolulu and they looked into it. His father, Mark Barnes, had made the missing person’s report when Steve and his mother, Charlotte Moriarty, went for a walk and never returned. Three weeks later, Mark called the police to report them missing. A short time later, Charlotte was found, but there was no trace of the baby. Charlotte was placed in a psychiatric hospital and then vanished after escaping, never to be seen again.
Steve gave some DNA and the test concluded that he was indeed the missing Moriarty Barnes baby. He also discovered that his father was alive in Southern California, and he learned that he has a half-sister as well. It is believed that before his mother was found and hospitalized, she put him in the orphanage under a different name, birthday, and she lied about the race of his father. After discovering his true identity, Steve/Marx got in contact with both family members.
2. Oscar Alfredo Ramírez Castaneda
According to the grandmother who raised him, Oscar Alfredo Ramírez Castaneda’s father, Oscar Ovidio Ramírez Ramos, was a highly respected and honorable Lieutenant with The Guatemalan army. He had tragically died when Oscar was just four-years-old and he was raised by his grandmother and aunts to revere the man. In 1998 he illegally crossed the American boarder and eventually settled in Framingham, Massachusetts. Over the years, things went well; he married, had kids, and bought a house.
In 2012, when Oscar was 31, he got a call from a prosecutor in Guatemala who wanted to email him some sensitive news. This made Oscar nervous because he was living illegally in the country, but he decided to hear out the prosecutor. In the email, it said that in 1982, during the Guatemalan Civil War, Guatemalan soldiers went to the village of Dos Erres and 250 men, women, and children in the village were slaughtered. There were only two survivors and one of those boys was Oscar. It turns out that the man who Oscar thought was his father was actually one of the key figures in the massacre that killed his mother and his eight siblings. While the news was shocking, it wasn’t the first time he had heard news like that. 10 years prior, Oscar received a newspaper article in the mail about the massacre, and the sender said he was one of the boys. When he asked his “grandmother” about the articled, she said it was merely propaganda to slander his father.
And if learning that he wasn’t kidnapped wasn’t mind-blowing enough, he also learned that there was another villager who avoided the massacre because he was away from Doe Erres that day. That survivor was Oscar’s father, who was still alive. After learning the news, Oscar’s father flew to the United States and they reunited after 30-years apart. Shortly after learning he was one of a few survivors of a massacre that was being prosecuted in Guatemala, Oscar was given political asylum in the United States.
1. Zephany Nurse
Zephany Nurse was born on April 28, 1997, in Cape Town, South Africa, and sadly, she was only with her biological family for two days before she was snatched at the hospital. The Nurse family was obviously devastated by the news, but they did the only thing they could; they moved on with their life. By 2010, when Zephany would have been 13, the family had come to terms with the situation and thought that Zephany was probably dead and would never be coming home.
In January 2015, Cassidy Nurse, who is the daughter that the Nurses had after Zephany was born, began high school. Shortly after starting, people started to notice a strong resemblance between Cassidy and a 17-year-old senior at the school. Cassidy went home and told her parents about the older girl who looked just like her and Morne Nurse, father of Zephany and Cassidy, thought it might be possible that this senior could be his long lost daughter. Morne met with the girl a number of times, and he became convinced that it was Zephany. This led to a DNA test, and it proved Morne’s suspicion; the girl was Zephany Nurse. After the revelation, Zephany was reunited with her biological family and the woman who kidnapped her, who was never identified, was arrested and is currently awaiting trial.