- The Washington Times - Friday, March 5, 2004

MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. (AP) — With hugs and kisses, the parents of a girl believed to have been kidnapped as a newborn six years ago were reunited with the child, officials said yesterday.

Luz Cuevas and Pedro Vera met the girl at a government office in New Jersey on Thursday, the same day a judge approved a plan to grant the parents custody, said Mrs. Cuevas’ lawyer, Andrew Micklin.

Philadelphia-area Rep. Angel Cruz, who represents the neighborhood where Mrs. Cuevas lives, witnessed the reunion. She said the mother was “thrilled” to meet the child she had named Delimar Vera.

“She said, ‘She called me mommy and she accepts me,’” Mrs. Cruz said yesterday on ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America” in describing the reunion of the mother and child.

“She got a hug and kiss; her daughter sat in her lap. The moment she expected six years ago, she got it last night,” Mrs. Cruz said.

Mrs. Cuevas and Mr. Vera are no longer a couple, Mr. Micklin said.

Authorities say the girl was taken from her crib in December 1997 by Carolyn Correa, 42, who then set fire to the home to cover up the kidnapping. Mrs. Cuevas had long believed that her daughter was alive, even though authorities said she had died in the fire.

Mrs. Cruz said that a language barrier between authorities and Mrs. Cuevas, who speaks Spanish, may have led to confusion about whether a body had been found in the fire.

Officials said Mrs. Correa raised the girl as her own until January, when the two ended up at the same birthday party as Mrs. Cuevas. She had a hunch that the girl — introduced to her as Aliyah Hernandez — was really her daughter. DNA tests confirmed her feeling, and Mrs. Correa was charged this week. She is being held in Philadelphia on $1 million bail.

Under the custody arrangement, Mrs. Cuevas and Mr. Vera will share legal custody. But the girl, who will keep using the name Aliyah, will live with her mother. Mr. Micklin said the transfer of custody will be a gradual process.

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