(VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala.) — The true identity of the Ohio teen who disappeared as a boy 13 years ago in Alabama was revealed after he couldn’t validate his Social Security number, according to the Jefferson County, Alabama, District Attorney.
The boy’s father, Bobby Hernandez, was taken into custody in Ohio on records tampering charges and Alabama officials issued a warrant to arrest him for felony interference with custody, officials said.
Here is what we know so far about the mysterious case:
Julian Hernandez, now 18, was reported missing by his mother in August 2002, according to the Vestavia Hills police. He was 5 years old at the time.
Police suspected he was taken in a “non-custodial parental abduction.”
Authorities followed many leads over the years as to where Julian might be, from Florida to Canada, police said Thursday. Each one was a dead end, police said — until this week.
The investigation came together when Julian, who “was doing well in school,” “was looking to go to college,” said Lt. Johnny Evans of the Vestavia Hills Police Department. “And when he started the process, that’s when things kind of started coming together.”
When he could not validate his Social Security number, according to Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls, that led to the discovery of his identity. Further details were not immediately available.
The Vestavia Hills Police Department was contacted this week by FBI agents from Cleveland, Ohio, about a missing child from Vestavia Hills.
Authorities located and positively identified the child as Julian, the police said.
“She had not given up, but she hadn’t heard anything in awhile,” Evans said Thursday. “It was just kind of a shock to her…all of a sudden on a Monday afternoon to be told, ‘Hey, he’s found.'”
“It was just great for me to be able to tell the mother…he is doing well,” said Evans.
While police do not know if the mother and son have reunited, they have been in contact.
Hernandez, was arrested in Cuyahoga County, Ohio and faces charges in connection with the case, police said.
The Jefferson County District Attorney’s office in Alabama said an arrest warrant was issued Thursday for Hernandez for the felony offense of Interference with Custody.
“The warrant concerns the taking of Julian Hernandez from the lawful custody of his mother on August 28th, 2002 from Vestavia Hills, Alabama, and the continuing interference with custody until the 18th birthday of Julian,” the district attorney’s office said.
Hernandez was being held on $250,000 bond in Ohio, according to court records. He is accused of tampering with records, according to a complaint from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office. He allegedly “falsified identifying information to obtain fictitious State of Ohio identification card,” the criminal complaint said.
Hernandez’s attorney did not immediately comment to ABC News.
What’s Next For Julian?
“He is 18,” said Evans. “He is an adult, so it’s kind of up to him now as to whether he wants to come back. We can’t go get him and bring him back because he was a juvenile.”
A representative for Julian’s mother said in a statement: “Our family was overjoyed this week to locate Julian and learn that he is safe. We want to thank everyone for their prayers and support during Julian’s disappearance. Although we appreciate the interest our story has generated, we will have to decline any requests for interviews or additional information at this time. We ask that the media respect our privacy as we focus on Julian’s well-being during this difficult time in his life.”
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