A San Bernardino mother whose children were kidnapped 15 years ago was able to finally track them down using Facebook.
San Bernardino’s Deputy District Attorney says it’s the first time his office has handled a case like this one. But in this digital age, it may not be the last.
Faustino Utrera, father of two toddlers, a boy and girl, vanished with them in 1995. Their mother reported them missing and 15 years passed. "At the time, they were 2 and 3 years old. So they’re now 17 and 16," said Kurt Rowley, San Bernardino Deputy District Attorney.
But in those years, the Internet exploded and social networking sites revolutionized the process of tracking people down.
"The mother got on to Facebook and typed in one of the children’s names and hit a Facebook page," said Rowley.
It was her daughter, and they started corresponding. The mother even sent the teenager a family photo, dating back to before the split. But the relationship stalled. "The teenager said, 'Not interested in a relationship. We just have a happy life. Leave us alone,'" said Rowley.
The teen’s Facebook page disappeared. The mother, who still lives in San Bernardino, contacted Rowley and his investigators. They tracked the Facebook profile and the girl to Orlando, Fla.
Utrera was then arrested and is now charged with two counts of kidnapping, and two counts of violating child custody orders.
As for the mother and her children, they will have to build a new relationship.
"There is no relationship there," said Carrie Hoeppner of the Florida Department of Children & Families. "You don't have that immediate joyful reunification. If in fact that is what will progress, it will take time. These children will have to build a relationship, and that is something that will not happen overnight."