Meet Julian Hernandez, The Boy Who Solved His Own Abduction, 13 Years After He Went Missing
20. Meet Julian Hernandez
How would you feel if all of a sudden, at the end of your teenage years, you are told that your whole upbringing has been a lie, including your full name? And while such a scenario might appear fictional to most people, a boy from Cleveland had to go through it in real life.
Meet Julian Hernandez, whose life turned upside down when he realised at the age of 18, he had been abducted when he was just 5 years old. What happened after the truth was revealed, is utterly shocking.
19. What is Julian’s Story?
Julian Hernandez is the same boy whose abduction became a subject of national news in 2002. Just 5 years old then, Julian went missing on August 28, 2002, and had been untraceable ever since. His mother reported him missing, and set off on a futile search for her son. However, her quest became an issue of interest for the media, especially in her home state of Alabama.
But how did it all happen, in the first place?
18. Julian’s Parents
Julian’s father, Bobby Hernandez, and his mother (whose name hasn’t been revealed) had a rocky relationship. At the time of Julian’s abduction, his parent’s hadn’t been living together. Julian lived in the custody of his mother, while Bobby, his father, used to visit him frequently. Julian’s mother had no qualms about Bobby’s visits.
But on the day of his abduction, her whole world changed in an instant.
17. The Day Of Julian’s Abduction
The day Julian was abducted started like any other. It was early morning, and as he was getting ready to go to preschool, his parents were having a heated argument. The arguments between Bobby and Julian’s mother were way too frequent and were mostly centred around their lifestyles, or Julian’s custody.
But then, a simple task turned into a living nightmare.
16. Bobby Takes Julian To School
Post-argument, Bobby offered to take Julian to school. Since he did that frequently in the past, Julian’s mother was fine with it. He picked up Julian’s bag, water bottle, and got moving. Sadly, that was the last Julian’s Mom saw of the child.
Before she even knew there was an issue, Julian was well on his way to a new life.
15. And, He Was Gone
That afternoon, Julian didn’t return home. Initially, his mother got a little worried. But once it started to get really late, she began to realise that her son had gone missing. And since she had been having multiple disputes with Bobby regarding Julian’s custody, he became the prime suspect in her eyes.
And then came the confession.
14. Bobby’s Confession
The biggest pointer was the note that Bobby had left, saying that he was going to take Julian under his custody, and would leave Alabama. However, his mother couldn’t comprehend the gravity of the situation immediately. But, as years began to pass, she started to realize that her son was probably not going come back to her.
So she knew if she wanted to see her child again, she was going to have to find him.
13. Search For The Missing Child
Although in shock, Julian’s mother reported the matter of her son’s abduction to the police. The police released an initial missing poster of Julian, with a smiling photo of him, and the details they believed would help people identify him. Also, they began search operations at places that could have offered a clue.
Meanwhile, the news of the missing child soon became a huge issue in the national media. It spread like wildfire, through TV and print.
12. Bobby’s Apartment
In the search for clues, the police landed at Bobby’s house. Bobby, till then, had been living in an apartment complex named Vestavia Park. It was the same complex that Julian and his mother lived in. An initial search revealed no clue as to where Bobby could possibly have taken Julian or even proof that he had abducted him in the first place.
But yet police still pursued him, which begs the question, “why did Bobby become the prime suspect?”
11. The Threat
It was because Julian’s mother told the police that Bobby had been threatening, for a long time, that he will take Julian away someday. She confessed that she never thought Bobby would do that for real. She felt that Bobby was happy with the fact that Julian had always loved him, and was probably the one thing that could possibly bring their relationship back on track.
But the big question – Where were Bobby and Julian?
10. Bobby Gets Moving, With The Boy
Bobby, by then, had already been moving northwards, with Julian strapped to the front seat of his car. He kept driving for hours and hours, until he finally arrived in Cleveland, Ohio. He decided to stay there, with the hope of disappearing completely, and starting afresh, with Julian.
But, once he got there, his wrongdoings were only going to get graver.
In Ohio, he began to live with a fake name, Jonathon Mangina. He forged a social security card and a driver’s license with the new name. He almost got caught a couple of times, and had multiple close calls with the police, as he later recalled.
But, what really, was he trying to do there? He couldn’t possibly believe this was going to work forever…
8. A New Beginning
With the new identity, Bobby also secured a job in Cleveland, and settled himself, along with Julian, into a small house. Julian, obviously, had no idea about what was happening. At 5, he didn’t realize that he wasn’t going to see his mother for a very long time now. He was comfortable in his father’s custody.
That should have settled the matter, except a strange coincidence that would happen, years later, set the mystery back in motion.
7. No Respite For The Mother
Meanwhile, Julian’s mother kept doing all that she could to find her son. She got her photographs altered according to how she believed, Julian’s face would look at various points in time. The days turned into years, and eventually, it had been a decade since Julian’s abduction. It felt like it had been an eternity for Julian’s mother. Her life became more agonising with every passing day.
Many said she would never see her boy again, but she was never willing to give up.
6. Time To Give Up!
With no clue of her child’s whereabouts, after so many years, Julian’s mother was severely depressed. Suicidal thoughts began to cross her mind, very frequently. At that stage, it was seemed easier for her to give up her life than to live in the hope of her son’s return. However, to her credit, she hung on.
Time and time again she thought about Julian and wondered what kind of life he had lived, and what kind of person he turned out to be.
5. Julian’s Upbringing
Meanwhile, oblivious of his past, Julian kept leading the life of a normal teenager. Bobby had changed Julian’s name too and began calling him J.J., to avoid being caught. That lie prevailed until Julian grew old enough to start using his social security number. And that’s when things began to turn around for his mother.
4. College Rejections
Since J.J. had no idea that his social security number was stolen, he began applying to colleges with it. But he would get rejected, every time. Perplexed by a series of rejections, Julian decided to take matters into his own hands. On his enquiry, the guidance counsellor told him that his paperwork didn’t match his candidature. Julian sensed that something was fishy, and began to investigate further. And then, he discovered the dark truth.
3. The Revelation
Once Julian, and the counsellor, investigated further, he was faced with the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, an organisation that Julian’s mother had been working with, very closely. As soon as the counsellor got in touch with her, everything became crystal clear. She immediately informed the police, who then took the matter into their own hands.
2. End Of Bobby’s Reign
Based on the input, the police arrested Bobby, on November 2nd, 2015. When they encountered Julian, they realized that he was a well-natured young boy, a decorated athlete, with an impressive academic record, consisting of straight-As. But the turn of events shook him deeply. His father admitted to the crime and was sentenced on April 13, 2016. The fact that Julian had been brought up well meant nothing to the court, as Bobby was charged with multiple violations, and was awarded a total sentence of 54 years.
1. Bobby’s Conviction
However, Julian pleaded to the court, on grounds that his father had never given him any trouble, and that he had already forgiven him for his deed. He stated that taking his father away, at this point would mean doing the same thing to him, all over again. On Julian’s plea, Bobby’s sentence was reduced to 4 years. Bobby broke down in the courtroom and apologized to his son.
Now, while Bobby is in prison, Julian is taking time to bond with his mother. He has asked the media to leave him alone for a while so that he can try to lead the normal life of an 18-year-old.
The fact of the matter is, what Julian and his mother have lost in those 13 years, can never be compensated for.