-- Maria Mancia believes in miracles.
The California mother wrapped her hands around a 22-year-old man who towered over her. Tears streamed down her cheeks as they embraced.
Mancia was hugging her son, Steve Hernandez, who was abducted by his father 21 years ago when he was not yet even 2 years old, according to a press release from the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office. Hernandez's father, Valentin Hernandez, took him to Mexico in 1995, never to be seen nor heard from again, until Thursday.
Calls to Mancia were not returned, but ABC-owned station KABC was there for the reunion.
"Now this anguish I've carried is gone now that I have my son back," Mancia told KABC. "I spent 21 years looking for him not knowing anything."
Mancia and Valentin Hernandez were at odds with each other after the birth of their son, according to the press release. She came home to their Rancho Cucamonga, California, home after work one day to find they had disappeared.
After years of investigation, the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Child Abduction Unit got a strong tip in February that Steve Hernandez was in Mexico.
In the press release, lead investigator Karen Cragg explained how authorities were able to make contact with Steve Hernandez and confirm his identity.
“We weren’t positive we located the right person,” Cragg said. “So, we used a ruse and told Steve we were conducting an investigation related to the disappearance of his father. During the conversation, we found several similarities in his history that matched that of our missing boy.”
Investigators were ultimately able to confirm Steve Hernandez's identity with a DNA test.
“We contacted the mother and she was overcome with emotion and very thankful,” Cragg said. “She had never given up after all these years, but had accepted the fact that she may never know her son.... To be able to return him to his country and his mother is an indescribable honor.”
According to the press release, Valentin Hernandez is presumed dead, but without confirmation, a $750,000 warrant for his arrest is still very much active, for kidnapping and child abduction.
After Steve Hernandez made the emotional trip back to the arms of his mother on Thursday, he said he was told by his father that his mother had walked out on them both.
"I lived all these years without my mother, then to find out she's alive in another country, it's emotional," Steve Hernandez told KABC.
He plans to stay in the U.S. and continue law school, which he already started in Mexico, KABC reported.