A child reported missing in Alabama 13 years ago has been found alive and well in Ohio, Alabama authorities have confirmed to BuzzFeed News.
Five-year-old Julian Hernandez went missing from his mother’s residence in August 2002, Vestavia Hills Police Lieutenant Johnny Evans told reporters during a press conference on Thursday morning. Authorities suspected at the time that Julian's father, Bobby Hernandez, had abducted him.
Bobby did not have custody of his son, but had been looking after him that day, and had allegedly left a note that he had taken him out and then never returned, according to authorities.
Julian was recently flagged when he tried to apply for college and it was discovered that his Social Security number did not match his name. With a school counselor’s help, he discovered that he was listed in the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children database.
Evans said that Vestavia Hills police were contacted on Sunday, Nov. 1, by the Cleveland FBI about a missing child whose identity matched up with the abducted Alabama boy from 13 years ago.
The lieutenant notified Julian Hernandez’s mother of the discovery.
“She’d been through so many false claims for 13 years,” he said, adding that she was “kind of apprehensive, but overall excited that he was doing well.”
Evans confirmed that the mother and son had been in contact but did not know if they had physically seen each other yet.
In a statement sent to BuzzFeed News, a representative for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said, "We know the work for Julian and his family has just begun and will continue over the next days, months and years as they adjust and get to know each other all over again."
The center's vice president, Robert Lowery, added, “Julian’s case is a reminder to all those parents and loved ones who are still searching for a missing child to never give up hope, no matter how long that child has been gone.”
Vestavia police are expected to obtain warrants for Bobby Hernandez for interfering with child custody. He was arrested in Cleveland, and is expected to be extradited to Jefferson County, Alabama, to face additional charges for the 2002 abduction.