BIRMINGHAM, Ala. —; A 5-year-old boy who went missing from his home in Alabama 13 years ago has been found unharmed as a young man living with his father in Ohio, thanks in part to red flags raised when he tried to apply to college, authorities said.
Julian Hernandez’s mother reported him missing from the Birmingham area in 2002 after his father left her a note saying he’d taken the boy, police said. After years of dead ends, officials said, the case cracked open with a tip on Oct. 30.
This undated photo provided by Cuyahoga County Prosecutors Office shows Bobby Hernandez. (Cuyahoga County Prosecutors Office via AP) (Cuyahoga County Prosecutors Office via AP)
This undated photo provided by Cuyahoga County Prosecutors Office shows Bobby Hernandez. (Cuyahoga County Prosecutors Office via AP)
(Cuyahoga County Prosecutors Office via AP)
Hernandez was doing well in school in Ohio and was applying to several colleges, but there was an issue with his Social Security number, according to police in Vestavia Hills, near Birmingham. He approached a school counselor, who was trying to help when she realized Hernandez was listed as missing by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, District Attorney Brandon Falls in Jefferson County, Alabama, told local media outlets.
Apparently, Hernandez had been living with his father, 53-year-old Bobby Hernandez, in Cleveland, on the city’s west side, authorities said. Both were living under assumed names with a woman and two other children, according to officials, and Julian Hernandez probably didn’t know he was listed as missing.
On the left is Julian Hernandez when he was 5. On the right is a digitally age-enhanced photo. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
On the left is Julian Hernandez when he was 5. On the right is a digitally age-enhanced photo.
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Bobby Hernandez has been charged with tampering with records in Ohio to get a driver’s license in 2012, and police say he’ll face additional charges in Alabama. He’s being held in Ohio on a $250,000 bond.
“We are in the process of getting charges on him and when that happens, when he is adjudicated in Ohio, then he will be extradited back to Jefferson County,” Lt. Johnny Evans of the Vestavia Hills police said.
Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls told local media outlets that he’s seeking charges involving interference with custody – a felony carrying a prison term of one to 10 years.
Court records show that Hernandez was declared indigent in Ohio. A message seeking comment was left at court-appointed attorney Ralph DeFranco’s office Thursday.
Prosecutor’s spokesman Joseph Frolik said the investigation is ongoing, but he had no additional comment Thursday. A preliminary hearing is set for Nov. 12.
Lt. Kevin York said police in Alabama have been in contact with the young man’s mother, who still lives in the Birmingham area. He said she has asked police not to release her name or address and has requested privacy.
“She was very happy that he had been found, quite ecstatic, but she was also somewhat hesitant because there had been so many false leads through the years,” York said.
When she reported him missing, she told police that Bobby Hernandez had come over to watch Julian, Evans said. He left her a note saying he had taken him and that was the last time she saw her son, Evans said. The two were not married, and police tried to locate Bobby Hernandez but couldn’t find an address, Evans said.
Officers received “hundreds of leads over the years of where he might be, from Florida to out of the country – Canada – and we followed up on every one of them, and they all turned out to be a dead end until I got the call Monday,” Evans said.
What happens next, in part, will be up to Julian Hernandez.
“He is 18, he is an adult, so it’s kind of up to him now as to whether he wants to come back,” Evans said.