A California woman is crediting a Facebook photo with reuniting her with her kidnapped son, 15 years after she says he was taken by his father to Mexico.
On Wednesday, Hope Holland wrapped her arms around her now 18-year-old son, Jonathan, for the first time since he was 3 years old.
“Happy,” the South Bay mother managed to choke out while summing up her feelings to reporters with tears pouring out of her eyes.
The extremely emotional moment followed approximately five months of back-and-forth communication with the couple after she stumbled upon an astonishingly familiar photo on Facebook, showing a pair of boys in a bath tub.
‘I had no reason to believe I was finding my son. Ever since I found him, my whole world, my whole outlook and direction changed,’ said Holland.
Jonathan was taken by his father, with whom Hope shared custody, in 2000.
‘His dad was going on vacation in Mexico and had permission to take him. It was a normal day. I didn’t think he was not coming back,’ Hope said. He never came back with Jonathan.
It was a photo she had taken years ago. It was Jonathan and his older brother Jacob.
“At first, my body responded with panic and excitement. Heart palpitations and sweat…my breathing out of control,” she wrote on a GoFundMe page that recounts her incredible journey in finding him.
She admitted that up until that moment she had friended a number of people named Jonathan online who matched his description, so she knew not to get too excited.
But when she clicked on the connecting profile’s name, her little boy, all grown up, was seen staring back at her.
“I scrolled through picture after picture, crying. It was like flashes of little movie trailers, giving me insight to pieces of his life,” she wrote.
After messaging him with the help of a friend, Holland and her long-lost son spoke for 80 minutes on the phone the first time she called him.
She credits her four years of high school Spanish as the “only reason I was able to talk to my son… thank God!”
Jonathan said that he had no memory of his mother while growing up, but had always wondered if she was out there and thinking of him. That’s why he had posted the photo of him as a child.
“I am happy he wanted to know me,” she said.
Because of Jonathan’s age, Holland said federal authorities declined to provide further assistance in bringing him back to her.
Thanks to funds raised online through Gofundme, however, she was finally able to fly him back to her this week.
Jonathan still has a good relationship with his father and so plans to return to Mexico to finish his final year of high school this fall.
Once he graduates he plans to return to the U.S. and be with his mom.