Boy missing 13 years found safe in Ohio makes first public statement

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The original photo of Julian Hernandez is on the left. The one on the right is digitally enhanced.

CLEVELAND — A child who was reported missing in Alabama 13 years and was found unharmed in Cleveland, Ohio, has released his first public statement.

Julian Hernandez was in the legal custody of his mother when he disappeared on August 28, 2002. He was 5 then.

It was suspected that his father, Bobby Hernandez, took him as part of a noncustodial parental abduction, according to the Vestavia Hills Police Department, just south of Birmingham.

A lead in the case came Sunday, when Vestavia Hills police were contacted by the FBI in Cleveland about a missing child.

In a statement released to the media on Friday, Julian said he is trying to live a normal life and meet his life goals. He also asked for privacy:

“I would like to take this opportunity to make a request to the media.  I ask that you respect my privacy and the privacy of my school, my school’s faculty, my friends and my neighbors.  At this point I just simply want to be normal!  I want to go through my day like I did before this week, just being a normal 18-year-old.  I have goals that I am striving to meet, so please, again, respect my request for privacy.  Please, no more spotlights, no more cameras, no more reporters sneaking into my school or showing up at my house, and no more microphones in my face.  I just want to be left alone.  Thank you for respecting my wishes.”  — Julian Hernandez

When Julian went missing, authorities suspected he was taken by Bobby as a non-custodial parent abduction.

The case broke when Julian was trying to apply for college, Brandon Falls, the district attorney for Jefferson County, told CNN affiliate WVTM. He ran into problems when his Social Security number didn’t match his name.

A school counselor worked with him to determine why. It was then they found out that he was on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children database.

The missing child they were able to locate and positively identify is now 18. Julian’s mother and family were notified of his recovery.

Bobby Hernandez was arrested Monday in the abduction. The court records from Cuyahoga County in Ohio did not specify exact charges against him. CNN reached out to attorney Ralph DeFranco’s office for further comment Wednesday night but did not immediately receive a response.

Bobby Hernandez made his first appearance in the Cuyahoga County Court on Wednesday, and his bond was set at $250,000. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for November 12.

In addition to the charges in Ohio, Hernandez will face charges in Jefferson County, Alabama, in the 2002 abduction. He may face additional charges.

The Vestavia Hills Police Department worked in collaboration with the FBI’s Violent Crime Task Force in Cleveland, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Birmingham Division of the FBI.