SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (CBS/AP) It might have been a shot into the darkness of the Internet, but one California mom hit her mark: She found her missing children on Facebook.
The mother, Prince Segala, says that in October 1995 she came home to find her two young children, ages 2 and 3, missing along with her husband, Faustino Utrera.
She immediately called the Montclair, Calif. police and filed a report. A few days later she received a phone call from Utrera telling her that he was in Mexico with their two children and she would never see them again, Deputy District Attorney Kurt S. Rowley told the San Bernardino Sun.
Segala has been searching for them ever since.
In March, Segala found her daughter on the social networking site Facebook. She sent her daughter pictures of their family before Utrera disappeared, and tried to arrange a meeting, but her daughter, now 17, told Segala that she had been told terrible things about her mother and was happy with her new mother. The daughter then deleted her profile, according to the paper.
But Segala was able to take that online conversation to the San Bernardino County prosecutor's office who obtained an arrest warrant in May for Utrera in Osceolla County, Fla., Rowley said.
The children were taken into state custody and according to Florida Department of Children and Families spokeswoman Elizabeth Arenas, they are now staying with a non-relative with whom the girl and her 16-year-old brother have an existing relationship.
"You can imagine the feelings she's having, not seeing her children for so many years and knowing they've bonded with another family," Rowley said about the mother. "But at the same time they're almost within her grasp."
Utrera was arrested by Osceolla County Sheriff's deputies May 26 and has been charged with felony kidnapping charges and violating child custody orders. Rowley said that he expects Utrera to fight extradition at a July 17 hearing.