"We told them many times over the years that Aliyah looked like their child and they should do something," Jose Vera told the Courier-Post of Cherry Hill.
Vera is a cousin of Pedro Vera who, with his ex-wife Luz Cuevas, is just getting to know the daughter they had named Delimar six years earlier.
Jose Vera is also a cousin of Carolyn Correa of Willingboro, who is accused of taking the girl from her crib in 1997 and setting a fire to cover up the kidnapping.
Officials say Correa raised the girl as her own until January, when the two ended up at the same birthday party as Cuevas, who had a hunch that the girl - introduced to her as Aliyah Hernandez - was really her daughter. DNA tests confirmed her hunch, and last week, Correa was charged. She is being held in Philadelphia on $1 million bail.
Jose Vera says for years, relatives suspected the girl Correa called her daughter was not her own.
"But we were all caught in the middle because we were cousins to both families," said Jose Vera. "It was up to the parents. They should have done something more before, but they were just leaving it in the hands of the police."
He said relatives would see the pair at parties attended by Pedro Vera, but not by Cuevas. She only saw the child in photographs, but not in person until a party in January.
"They agreed the child looked like them and Pedro always thought it was his daughter, but nothing ever happened until now," said Jose Vera.
Jose's 18-year-old daughter, Alison, said relatives believed Aliyah belonged to Pedro and Luz for a long time.
"It's a crazy story - just like a movie," she said. "We told my cousin Pedro about it, but nothing ever happened. Nothing was done. I don't know why."
Vera and Cuevas were reunited with their daughter on Thursday, in a government office in Mount Laurel, N.J., on the same day that a judge approved a plan to grant the parents custody.
Rep. Angel Cruz, who represents the neighborhood where Cuevas lives and accompanied her to the reunion, said the mother was "thrilled" to meet the child she had named Delimar Vera.
Cruz, interviewed on ABC's "Good Morning America," said that a language barrier between authorities and Cuevas - who speaks Spanish - might have led to confusion about whether a body was found in the fire in which the girl was believed to have died.
Under the custody arrangement, Cuevas and Vera will share legal custody but the girl, who will keep using the name Aliyah, will live with her mother. Micklin said the transfer of custody will be a gradual process.
The girl does not speak Spanish and her mother speaks very little English.
Attorney Anthony Cianfrani, who represents Cuevas, said Friday that Cuevas told authorities she believed the girl was kidnapped, but nothing was done.
In Philadelphia, the case has prompted calls for an investigation into how authorities could incorrectly conclude Delimar Vera died in a fire.
Cianfrani has said he intends to sue the city of Philadelphia over the botched fire investigation.