There are few things as deeply disturbing and fascinating as the cases of children who go missing, but are found many years later. It may seem hard to believe, but approximately 2,300 children and adults are reported missing in in the U.S. every day. It’s a horrifying and sad statistic, but history has shown that there is always hope! To find a missing person many years later is truly a miracle, as the loved ones of those who are kidnapped seldom receive this kind of happy news. These stories of found lost children prove you can never give up. It’s actually slightly more common to find missing children than you may think. We latch on to these stories with rabid fascination, because they are often the purest examples of the epitome of human strength, fortitude, and resilience. Still others happened under the oddest set of circumstances one can imagine– like a girl who hid out with her boyfriend for five years, or the guy who was just doing drugs while everyone assumed he’d been murdered by serial killer John Wayne Gacy. The experiences of found missing kids vary from wretched to wacky to WTF?!
Missing Boko Haram Victim Found After Two Years
Two years after being kidnapped by Boko Haram, a militant terrorist group in Nigeria, one schoolgirl was found carrying a four-month-old baby. Amina Ali Nkeki was captured along with more than 200 other Chibok girls in 2014. Amina was spotted and recognized by a member of the Civilian Joint Task Force, a vigilante group attempting to fight off the terrorists. She was traveling with a member of Boko Haram who claimed to be her husband. He was taken into custody and she was reunited with her family.
Aboku Gaji, a leader in the task force, said, “When we arrived at the house… I asked the mother to come and identify someone. The moment she saw her, she shouted her name: ‘Amina, Amina!’ She gave her the biggest hug ever, as if they were going to roll on the ground, we had to stabilise them.”
Elijah Wong and Donnie Simmons Found Thanks to Traffic Stop
Thanks to an Arizona traffic stop, two-year-old Elijah Wong and seven-year-old Donnie Simmons were found more than a month after they were reported missing in Louisiana.The kids were abducted from different addresses by their mother, Antoinette Wong, and her boyfriend, with Donnie taken at gunpoint from the home where he was staying. The couple had been linked to several bank robberies, and were ultimately pulled over by a State Trooper when their car was spotted swerving on the highway.
The two boys were taken into protective custody by Child Protective Services.
Xiao Yun Had Been Playing Games in Internet Cafes for 10 Years
Xiao Yun, 24, had been missing for 10 years, when, in 2015 she was finally found. Where was she for all that time? Allegedly, she spent the decade living in Internet cafes and playing games – her favorite being CrossFire.
She had left her home in Zhejiang, on of China’s eastern provinces, after a quarrel with her parents. Her family assumed she was dead, until police officers found her in an Internet cafe, using a fake ID card. She had been living on handouts from other cafe patrons and sometimes worked as a cashier at various cafes to earn extra income.
Julian Hernandez Was Missing for 13 Years
Julian Hernandez didn’t realize that he had been missing since 2002 until he discovered his status himself in 2015. The 18-year-old Alabama boy had been living with his father under false names for more than 13 years. In 2002, Julian’s mother told police that his father had supposedly taken the five-year-old to preschool, but they never returned. It wasn’t until Julian began applying to colleges that he realized that the Social Security number his father gave him was fake.
With the help of a school counselor, he found himself on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children database. His father was charged with tampering with records.
Jaycee Lee Dugard Disappeared in 1991
Eleven-year-old Jaycee Dugard was abducted while walking to the school bus in Lake Tahoe, California in 1991. Phillip and Nancy Garrido had been in her neighborhood, prowling for a young girl to take, when they saw Jayce, shot her with a stun gun and dragged her into their car. They transported her to their home where they kept her in a shed in their back yard for 18 years. During her captivity, she had two daughters by Phillip Garrido, one at 13 and one at 16 years old.
UC Berkeley security officers conducted a background check on Garrido in August 2009, when he was seen acting strangely with two young girls whom he claimed were his daughters. When the review showed Garrido, in fact, had no children, investigators were called and search his home where Dugard and her meager living situation in his back yard were discovered. She was returned to her family in 2009. Garrido was sentenced to 431 years in prison, while his wife received 36 years to life.
Steven Stayner Was Kidnapped and Held Captive for Eight Years
Steven Stayner, age 7, was kidnapped in Meced, CA on December 4th, 1972 by a man named Kenneth Parnell. He was held captive for 8 years. Kenneth repeatedly assaulted and tortured Steven during this time and brainwashed him into thinking his parents gave him away. Parnell was so successful at this that he even enrolled Steven in school, changing his name.
As Steven grew, Parnell lost interest in him and kidnapped 5-year-old Timmy White. Once Timmy came into the house, Steven vowed to escape with Timmy and return him to his home in Ukiah, CA. One night, Steven and Timmy escaped, hitch hiking to Ukiah. There, the police picked up the boys. “I know my first name is Steven.” He told the police, although he could no longer recall what his last name was.
Kenneth Parnell was sentenced to only 5 years in prison. Steven Stayner returned to his family, but his father was unable to have a relationship with him due to the perception that he had of Steven’s assault. Stayner was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1989, when he was just 24 years old.
Steve Carter Solved His Own Missing Persons Case
In 2012, a guy named Steve Carter clicked on a website that featured cases of missing children. Steve had always known that he was adopted from an orphanage in Hawaii, but as he was looking through online case files, he came across a photo that looked eerily like a young him. It said the boy was named Marx Panama Barnes. “My first thought was, “Oh my God, that’s me,” said Carter.
Steve’s father had been looking for him for 30 years, after he was kidnapped by his biological mother as an infant. At the age of 4, she put him up for adoption in an orphanage, then disappeared without a trace. DNA confirmed that Steve Carter and Marx Panama Barnes were, indeed, the same person.
Source: Huffington Post
Elizabeth Smart Was Missing for Nine Months
In 2002, 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped right out of her own bedroom by a crazy fundamentalist Mormon named Brian David Mitchell, who planned on making her his second wife. Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Ileen Barzee, kept Elizabeth tied to a tree in their backyard in Sandy, Utah, only 18 miles from the Smart family home.
Smart was recovered 9 months after she was taken. Mitchell and Barzee frequently took her into Salt Lake City to attend events, making her wear a veil and ordering her not to speak to anyone. Eventually, the strange behavior was noticed and investigators raided the Mitchel/Barzee home, finding Elizabeth there.
Mitchell was sentenced to two life terms for kidnapping and sexual assault, while Barzee got a 15 year sentence for aiding in the crime. Elizabeth Smart is now married and a contributor for ABC News.
Richard Wayne Landers Was Abducted and Found 19 Years Later
Abducted from Indiana by his paternal grandparents at age 5, Landers was found living with his grandparents in a small town in Minnesota 19 years later under an assumed name, Michael Jeff Landers.
Landers defended his grandparents in a Facebook post, saying he was “where I needed to be.” He works at an auto parts store and is expecting a child with his wife.
Source: NY Daily News
Shawn Hornbeck Was Kidnapped in 2002
Kidnapped in 2002 at age 11 while riding his bike near his Missouri home, Shawn Hornbeck was found more than four years later living in a St. Louis apartment with a man named Michael J. Devlin.
After Hornbeck was rescued, it was learned he had often been seen, albeit unrecognized, in public. He had a girlfriend, often walked around a local shopping mall and even spoke with a police officer when his bicycle was stolen. He even posted on a website his parents had set up regarding his kidnapping, asking how long they would continue to look for their son. He signed the post “Shawn Devlin.” Devlin kept Hornbeck in check through constant abuse, brainwashing and deception.
Devlin was stabbed and wounded while awaiting trial. He has since been sentenced to three life terms.
Source: Daily Journal Online
Danielle Cramer Was Hidden in a Cupboard for a Year
Danielle Cramer went missing at age 15 in June 2006, but was discovered by police a year later, locked in a secret upstairs cupboard in West Hartford, CT. Police had gone to the house to arrest Adam Gault, 41, whom they suspected of murder, but instead managed to free Danielle.
Source: Rayda Jacobs
Three Women Were Held Captive for Over a Decade by Ariel Castro
Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus were found in the Cleveland home of Ariel Castro in 2013, after more than a decade of captivity. Knight disappeared first in 2002 at age 21, followed by Berry in 2003 at age 17, and DeJesus in 2004 at age 14.
Neighbors rescued them after hearing Berry’s screams. Castro later committed suicide in prison.
Charlie Bothuell Was Located Safe After 11 Days
Charlie Bothuell, 12, was reported missing from his Detroit, MI home on June 14, 2014. Eleven days later, Nancy Grace revealed to the missing boy’s father on national television that authorities found his son alive in the father’s basement.
Charlie was very underweight when found, and there were signs of abuse. His father and stepmother have both been charged with torture and child abuse.
Source: Huffington Post
Gregory Jean Was Found Behind a Wall After Four Years
Gregory Jean Jr., a 13-year-old boy who had been missing for four years, was found hidden behind a false wall in his Georgia home. The boy’s father, 37-year-old Gregory Jean Sr., and stepmother, 42-year-old Samantha Joy Davis, were arrested and charged with false imprisonment, cruelty to children, and obstruction.
Source: The Guardian
Missing Autistic Boy Found After Four Days in the Wilderness
Eleven-year-old Luke Shambrook disappeared while camping with his family in Victoria, Australia. After 4 days and 4 nights in the outback, an astute Sergeant spotted Luke by air, about two miles from where he had first gone missing.
Shambrook was treated for dehydration, hypothermia, and exhaustion, but was reunited with his family. The acting Commander of the Victoria Police, Rick Nugent, said Luke’s resilience was “absolutely amazing.”
“An 11-year-old boy, challenged as he is with his autism, he’s a courageous, resilient, strong young man,” he said.
Natasha Ryan Was Missing for Five Years and Assumed Dead
In 1998, 14-year-old Natasha Ryan vanished from her home in Australia. When she was found alive, a man was already on trial for her murder. He had confessed to killing the girl, and she was assumed to be dead.
In reality, Natasha was just hiding out at her older boyfriend’s house… for five years. She had been forbidden from seeing him, and decided to go against her mother and shack up with him. When folks thought that she had befallen to a terrible fate, it served her purposes as no one would be looking for her if they thought she was dead.
Her mother was understandably furious that her daughter had allowed her to believe she had been murdered, the two have since reconciled. Ryan married her boyfriend in 2008.
Source: The Age
Carlina White Was Stolen as a Baby and Located 23 Years Later
Carlina White was just 19 days old when she was kidnapped from Harlem Hospital on August 4, 1987. Twenty-three years later, Carlina herself found her biological mother, who had never stopped looking for her missing daughter. Carlina had always felt that the family who raised her was not her true family and she began investigating her roots. All of her investigations to Joy White, who turned out to be her real mother.
The Carlina White case represents the longest known gap in a non-parental abduction where the victim was reunited with the family in the United States. Anne Pettaway, the woman who had abducted White and raised her as her own, was sentenced to 12 years in jail on federal kidnapping charges.
Source: NY Mag
Girl Missing Since 2004 Found Alive in Mexico
Connie McCallister was a 16-year-old honor roll student when she vanished from her Wisconsin home in 2004. In 2013, she was located safe in Mexico, married to another man and with three children. McCallister told authorities that she was drugged by her then-boyfriend and swept away to Mexico, his home country.
McCallister was able to return to the U.S in 2014, after confessing who she was to an American missionary in the town where she was living. She was then able to make contact with her family after 10 years, and eventually returned home.
Tanya Kach Was Missing for a Decade
Fifteen-year-old Tanya Kach thought she was developing a relationship with a security guard at her school named Thomas Hose. Hose brought Tanya to live in secret in the same house as his parents and son, and managed to keep her hidden from them for four years. She was forced to stay in his second story bedroom, and had to use a bucket as a toilet.
He then created a new identity for Tanya, and introduced her to his parents as his girlfriend who would be moving in with them. She was then able to leave the house with a strict curfew, but it took her another six years to escape with the help of a local grocery store owner. Hose plead guilty to kidnapping and sexual abuse, and was convicted to five to 15 years in prison.
A Man Thought to Be the Victim of John Wayne Gacy Found Alive 41 Years Later
Robert Hutton was reported missing in 1972, when he was 21 years old, after telling his mother he was traveling from New York to California. His family never heard from him again, and law enforcement agencies closed the missing-person case after several years of trying to locate him. Since he was hitchhiking through Illinois when serial killer John Wayne Gacy was active, authorities surmised Hutton fell victim to the murderer.
Hutton said he had gotten caught up in the “lifestyle of the 70s” and had tried to contact his family in the ’80s and ’90s but had trouble tracking them down. Strangely enough, Hutton isn’t the only presumed victim of Gacy to be found alive. Five more missing men thought to have been killed by Gacy have also been located unharmed 40-plus years later.
Source: Chicago Tribune