Photos of little Tristen "Buddy" Myers show a happy apple-cheeked boy — but his life was anything but picture perfect before he went missing from his great aunt's rural home more than two years ago.
Tristen, who was just 4 years old when he disappeared, had already lived in two different homes, away from his mother who was just 15 when she had him.
At one point, the boy was hit by a car driven by his drunken grandfather and the accident left him with a burned neck and a fractured leg.
Then, one day after a doctor's visit, no one could find the boy, and the family had lost hope of finding him — until a boy called Eli Quick ended up in a Chicago hospital last month.
Now Tristen's mother Raven Myers, a 20-year-old exotic dancer, says she hopes suspicions that Eli could be her son turn out to be true. She says she wants a second chance to be a good mom.
"He should've been brought up better," Myers told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. "I don't think it's too late at all."
Myers says Eli shares the same facial features, scars and speech impediment as her boy, Tristen.
Eli showed up in an Evanston, Ill., hospital with a man who asked staffers to treat the boy for his "aggressive behavior." The staff became suspicious and called police when the man, Ricky Quick, tried to leave with the boy.
The man insists that the boy is not Tristen. He says the boy was born to a prostitute named Laura in 1995. Ricky Quick told police that the woman handed over the child when he was just an infant. He said she told him he was the father and he named him Eli.
After hospital workers called police, Ricky Quick was arrested on earlier charges of shoplifting and the boy was turned over to social workers.
Raven Myers says she does not recognize Ricky Quick from the pictures she has seen of the man on TV.
Authorities conducted DNA tests Monday to determine whether he is Tristen. Authorities now say the DNA results should be available within 48 hours
In the meantime, Ricky Quick has shown authorities pictures of his family with the boy he calls Eli. The pictures show the boy as a toddler and Raven Myers says the boy doesn't look like Tristen in those photos. However, she says the photo taken of "Eli Quick" in the hospital looks like her son, Tristen.
Raven Myers says the toddler in the Quick family pictures does not look like Tristen, but she says the photo taken of the boy in the hospital looks like her son.
"It's really upsetting me and I just hope it's him," Myers said.
Sgt. Darold Cox of the Sampson County N.C., Sheriff's Department agreed that there is a striking resemblance between the boy known as Eli and Tristen who disappeared in October 2000.
Police: Boy Looks Like 'Buddy'
"The chin, the ears, eyes, speech impediment, scars look similar to Buddy," Cox said after talking with Illinois child care workers. Myers says she works as an exotic dancer because she must support her entire family.
"As a single mom I don't think working at Cracker Barrel as a waitress is going to support me and my family," Myers said.
Myers has had another child since Tristen went missing. Myers says Tristen, who would be 6 years-old now, went through a lot in his first few years, but she says her family did the best they could.
"Nothing a little boy should have gone through," Myers said. "The car accident, the things my family went through," she said.
The grandfather, Robert Myers, says the car accident could not have been prevented.
"I could have been stone sober, it would have made no difference because I've gone over and over and over in my mind what could have changed that," Robert Myers said. "That was an accident. "
The Myers family says they last saw Tristen when he wandered away from home with his dogs in the afternoon more than two years ago.
The dogs returned a few days later, but Tristen never came back and weeks of searches turned up nothing. Myers says she's hired a Charlotte attorney for an anticipated custody battle with her aunt, Donna Myers, over Tristen if the DNA test shows that she is the boy's mother.
Today, Jackie Jacobs, a friend of Donna Myers, spoke briefly at a news conference held in Roseboro, N.C.
She said said the boy's great aunt is hopeful the boy in Illinois is her nephew.