Steve Carter had always had questions about his childhood: why was his birth certificate created a year after his birth; who were his real parents?
Yet the 35-year-old, who was adopted aged four, was stunned when a simple internet search revealed a past that threw up even more questions.
After reading about Carlina White, an Atlanta woman who discovered she was snatched from a Harlem hospital as a baby, Carter decided to conduct his own search.
And he was stunned when he found a picture on missingkids.com of what a baby named Marx Panama Barnes would look like now – and realised it was him.
‘I got chills,’ Carter, who lives in Philadelphia, told People magazine. ‘I was like, “Holy c**p, it’s me”.’
He discovered that he had been born in Hau’ula, Hawaii, but had gone missing with his mother, Charlotte Moriarty, when he was six months old.
His mother had disappeared before, but after she failed to return after three weeks, her partner and Carter’s father, Mark Barnes, reported the pair missing.
Speaking to People magazine, Barnes said he never knew what had happened to his girlfriend and baby son on June 21, 1977.
‘I spent about a year and a half going crazy driving around the island,’ Barnes, now 61, said. ‘It was rough.’
Now Carter has discovered that his mother took him to a stranger’s home, where she gave police a fake name and birth date for her son.
She was taken to a psychiatric hospital and Carter was put in protective care, People reported. But she vanished a few days later – and has never been found.
With Moriarty missing and a fake name stunting any investigation, Carter became a ward of the state and he was placed in an orphanage 30 miles from where he had lived with his parents.
Three years later, he was introduced to Steve and Pat Carter. ‘It was love at first sight,’ Pat said.
Yet despite a comfortable upbringing with the couple in a south suburb of New Jersey, he was racked with questions about his childhood. It led him to his life-changing discovery online.
He took a DNA test that confirmed the boy in the picture was him, but he admitted he was ‘terrified’ about meeting his long-lost relatives.
His adoptive mother Pat said she was threatened by the news. ‘I felt like we’d taken someone else’s child, though that wasn’t true,’ she said.
In February, months after the DNA test confirmed his identity, he called Jennifer Monnheimer – Moriarty’s daughter and his older half sister.
Monnheimer, 43, was eight and living with her father in New Mexico when her mother and brother vanished.
‘Truthfully I thought they were dead,’ she said. ‘I was really numb.’ She added she had grown up ‘scanning crowds’ for her missing family.
It was due to Monnheimer that the picture had even appeared on the missing children’s website.
In 2001, she convinced Hawaiian officials to re-open the investigation into the disappearances and they created the photo of her brother.
‘If it wasn’t for her, it would still be a cold case,’ Charlene Takeno from the Missing Child Center in Hawaii told People.
Carter has yet to meet his father, Mark Barnes, who now lives in California and has two daughters at college – and who has always wondered about his son since his disappearance in 1977.
When Carter called him in February this year, he was speechless: ‘All I could say was, “Wow. Oh wow. Wow”.’
Carter, who now works for a medical software company in Philadelphia and is married, said he had often wondered where he came from as a child.
Now, as the discovery begins to settle in, he looks forward to reuniting with his father and sister this summer. ‘It’s good to know where you’ve come from,’ he said.
Source Mail Online