Woman, 61, Missing as a Child, Finds Her Family After 55 Years

California woman allegedly snatched as girl in Texas finds way back to family.

November 15, 2009, 10:17 AM

Nov. 15, 2009— -- Dollie Ann Henson has been seeking her family for more than half a century, ever since she was kidnapped by a neighbor as a child, she said. Now, she's finally found them.

The 61-year-old California woman was reunited with the aunt and sister she barely remembers, and a niece she has never known, in a touching reunion Saturday on "Good Morning America Weekend," in New York.

Henson and her daughter Kia'Ora flew from the West Coast to meet Donilla McDaniel, her aunt, Rita McDaniel, her sister, and Valencia McDaniel, her niece, who came from Houston.

Henson was just 5 years old when, she said, she was kidnapped. She was playing at a neighbor's home in Houston, she claimed, when the neighbor woman asked her if she wanted to go on a train ride. She was first taken to Louisiana, then to California.

All the while, Henson said, she was told her biological family never wanted her, and she would never be able to find them. Her name and birth certificate were changed, and said she was unable to trace her family because she didn't know her real identity. She's been living in the San Francisco area ever since, some 1,600 miles away from the family she never knew.

Henson claims her alleged kidnapper changed Henson name, birth date and birth certificate -- and kept all of her identification information locked in the trunk of a car.

Shortly before the alleged kidnapper's death, a fire destroyed the car and the documents it contained.

ABC News is not releasing the name of Henson's alleged kidnapper because the woman was never formally accused of or charged with a crime. She passed away in 1977.

Asked on "GMA Weekend" if she knew as a child she had been kidnapped, Henson explained, "I didn't know the word 'kidnapped,' but I knew that I had been taken."

"GMA Weekend" anchor Kate Snow introduced the Henson and McDaniel families on the set, and it was a tearful reunion as the women hugged and laughed.

"Oh my, goodness! Hi!" Henson exclaimed as she embraced her sister, Rita.

"I can't believe this. It's awesome. It's just, you know, closure in my heart. It's just unbelievable," said Henson as she sat among three generations of her family.

Long-Lost Woman's Sister: 'You Look Like Mama!'

Henson's sister, Rita, was overwhelmed by the reunion, but grateful she lived to see it.

"I always wondered what she looked like. You look like Mama," she told her sister as she laughed. "I wondered if I would ever see her before I leave this world. I am just so grateful [God] sent her back to us."

Over the years, Henson created a life of her own in California. She got married and had children. Henson related the story of her devastating ordeal to her daughters who helped her search.

Last week, Henson's daughter Kia'Ora, desperate to help her mom fill in the blanks after all these years, reached out to the Houston ABC affiliate KTRK, knowing Henson was born in the Texas town.

Henson went on television Thursday, telling the station the story of her alleged abduction 55 years ago.

Long-lost family members happened to be watching the newscast, and knew right away that Dollie Ann was the little girl who had disappeared from their lives all those years ago.

A reporter from KTRK reunited the two families by phone Friday.

Henson became frustrated six years ago when a relative traveled to Houston to look for Henson's childhood home. The neighborhood Henson went missing from was found to be a freeway. Still, she refused to give up.

"I'm shocked. All these pieces that's been floating around in my heart," Henson said.

Family members filled in Henson on what she's missed. They said they tried to track her down in the past, but they were searching for her under her birth name, Darlene McDaniel.

Sadly, Henson won't be reunited with the mother she barely knew. Her mother died 10 years ago. But a photo shows a resemblance, and that's enough for Henson.

"They said that she really talked about me up until she passed, you know. I wish she could have known this day was coming," Henson said.

"Do you remember me?" Donilla asked her Friday over the phone. "I just want to let you know I hadn't [forgotten] you."

"Thank you, Lord. Thank you, thank you, thank you," said Henson after seeing video of her aunt Donilla for the first time, taken by KTRK.

Henson's remarks after her Friday phone call with her family may sum it up best: "I'm just happy we were able to find them. I'm happy to know they looked for me, and I'm happy to know they all said they loved me," she said as she wiped away tears.

ABC News stationsKTRK in Houston and KGO in San Francisco assisted with reporting for this story.

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