Parents and children share the most unbreakable bond in the world and are the most important parts of each other's lives. But Ohio teen J.J. Mangina was sadly deprived of the chance to grow up with his mother by his side. And it took him 13 years to discover the gut-wrenching truth about the absence of his mother.
High school student J.J. Mangina had lived with his single father in Cleveland, Ohio, since he was 5 years old. Despite his mother's absence, young J.J. managed to lead a normal life just like any other kid. He achieved straight A's and was also a star athlete in school. But when it was time for college, one counselor noticed something that indicated thatstated J.J. actually wasn't who he thought he was at all.
With good grades and extracurricular activities, 18-year-old J.J. could attend any college of his choosing. However, when he was submitting his college application, one admissions counselor discovered a peculiar discrepancy with his identification. Furthermore, the tax information that J.J. had his father filled out on the paperwork also showed something strange.
After a quick bit of research, the counselor found out that J.J.'s Social Security number belonged to a boy named Julian Hernandez, who has been on a missing person's report filed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for years, and that J.J.'s father, Jonathan Mangina, was in fact named Bobby Hernandez.
Oblivious to what had happened, J.J. turned to his dad for an explanation. And this was when a different life story began to emerge. By J.J.'s account, his father uprooted him to Ohio because his mother had dumped them. At that time, J.J. was too young to know the truth, so he had never doubted what his father said until the full story came to light.
J.J. was born in Alabama in 1997 to Jonathan and his girlfriend. The couple raised little J.J. together, but they were never married and even lived in separate units in the same apartment complex. On one summer's day in 2002, his mother asked Jonathan to watch over their son and then left home to complete some errands. But the mother had never expected that that would be the last time she laid eyes on her son.
After the mother left, Jonathan packed his things, emptied his bank account, and took his son out of the town. When the mother returned home, she found nothing but a note stating that her partner and son were gone. The dumbfounded mother instantly reported her son missing, but she had never received any clues to her son's whereabouts in the following years.
In fact, the father and son didn't flee too far away. They settled down in Cleveland, Ohio, which is only a 10-hour drive north of their original home. To make sure that they would never be discovered, the father had all their identities and backgrounds changed and even adopted new aliases, namely Jonathan and J.J. Mangina. While they started a new life in Ohio, the mother underwent a massive search for her missing boy.
Posters with the young boy's image were put around the town and on the internet. Authorities put in a lot of work to search for the brown haired and brown eyed boy, who had a dimple on his left cheek. Over the years, however, despite numerous tips, nothing substantial had been picked up. All hope seemed to have been lost until the break from J.J.'s counselor came.
Having no way of tracking her missing boy down, the mother could do nothing but mourn the loss of her son. Meanwhile, the father and son started a new life with new identities in Cleveland. Jonathan got a job in a factory, and J.J. attended school. J.J. recalled that Jonathan was a "perfect father," taking care of him both financially and emotionally, and that he enjoyed a fairly normal upbringing during this time. But the college application changed everything.
Now J.J.'s confusion with the situation was clear. He couldn't believe that he had actually been abducted by his own father, and that his mother was, in fact, not the terrible person that his father had told him. She hadn't abandoned him, and instead, she had actually been looking for him all over the years. Regardless, the father had to face the consequences of what he had done.
Before long, Jonathan was taken into custody, and a few weeks later, he was charged with kidnapping, interference with custody, forgery, and tampering with records. When the police broke the news to J.J.'s mother, she was understandably overcome with joy to know that her son had been found, but meanwhile, she was rightfully wary of the case against Jonathan.
J.J.'s mother's attorney stated that Jonathan had kidnapped her son as revenge for her leaving him, and that J.J.'s maternal grandmother passionately asked for the sentence to be "as long as our suffering has been." Jonathan's attorney defended him, claiming that he couldn't have done better in J.J.'s upbringing, and that Jonathan's parental guidance was the driving force behind J.J.'s excellence in both school and sports. But what did J.J. think about the whole thing?
J.J. defended his father throughout the process. He commended his father for all he had done for him and even asked the judge not to send his father to jail. J.J. also turned to social media for advice, posting on Reddit that "I'm not angry at my father in the slightest. I remember that he used to ask me 'If I ever committed a terrible crime, would you still love me?' I still do, even after learning everything." Unfortunately, the boy's plea would fall on deaf ears.
After being indicted on charges of 32 counts, Jonathan ended up pleading guilty to 15 of them and was eventually sentenced to 4 years in prison. Jonathan had admitted to his attorney that he knew he would be caught one day, and that he felt sorry for the entire situation. Now, as Jonathan began suffering the consequences of his impulsive wrongdoings, how are J.J. and his mother?
Feeling terrible about how things went down, J.J. just wishes that it all could go back to the way it was before he learned of his father's actions. But he knows it's impossible. So he simply wants the media to leave him alone and allow him to continue with his life in peace. J.J. also reconnected with his mother and even spent the 2015 Thanksgiving with her. But it's not clear if the long separated mother and son are still in contact to this day.
An impulsive move by J.J.'s father had a huge impact on the lives of many people, and as a result, J.J. and his mother were not afforded the opportunity to be present in each other's lives. The son had always mistaken his mother as a terrible person who had discarded him. The mother had always been suffering the loss of his son, and the father ended up in prison. Anyway, the 13-year abduction case came to a close, and justice was finally served.