Steve Hernandez, 22, was 18 months old in 1995. That year his father, Valentin Hernandez, stole him from the home they shared with Steve Hernandez's mother, Maria Mancia, in California, according to senior investigator Karen Cragg of the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office.
"The couple was having problems in their relationship," Cragg said. "The mother went to work one day, only to return home to an empty residence with the father and child gone."
With him Valentin Hernandez took all signs of their son, including ultrasound photos, authorities said. For 21 years, Mancia had only one photograph of her son, which she got back after sending it to her aunt in El Salvador.
In February, investigators learned Steve Hernandez was believed to be living in Puebla, Mexico. The district attorney's Child Abduction Unit contacted him.
"We weren't positive we located the right person, so we used a ruse and told Steve we were conducting an investigation related to the disappearance of his father," Cragg said. "During the conversation, we found several similarities in his history that matched that of our missing boy."
A DNA test proved he was Mancia's son late last month.
"(Mancia) 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."
Valentin Hernandez is wanted on a warrant for kidnapping and child abduction, although it's unclear whether the warrant will be served. Information has surfaced indicating Valentin Hernandez may be dead, although authorities were unable to confirm or deny the report.