Girl Presumed Dead, Mom Reunite

Delimar Vera and Luzaida Cuevas: daughter and mother
With hugs and kisses, the parents of a girl who was allegedly kidnapped as a newborn six years ago were reunited with the child, officials said Friday.

Luz Cuevas and Pedro Vera met the girl at a government office in New Jersey Thursday, under the supervision of a child psychologist, the same day a judge approved a plan to grant the parents custody, said Cuevas' lawyer, Andrew Micklin.

State Rep. Angel Cruz, D-Philadelphia, 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.

"She said, 'She called me mommy and she accepts me,'" Cruz said Friday in a television interview.

"She got a hug and kiss, her daughter sat in her lap. The moment she expected six years ago, she got it last night," Cruz said.

Cuevas and Vera are no longer a couple, Micklin said.

Authorities say the girl was taken from her crib in December 1997 by Carolyn Correa, 42, who then set fire to the home to cover up the kidnapping. Cuevas had long believed that her daughter was alive, even though authorities said she had died in the fire.

Cruz said that a language barrier between authorities and Cuevas, who speaks Spanish, may have led to confusion about whether a body had been found in the fire.

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 Correa was charged this week. She is being held in Philadelphia on $1 million bail.

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.

Even so, the transition may be difficult. Adam Robbs, a friend of Correa, told the Philadelphia Daily News life will be for very different the little girl, who has been living in Willingboro, N.J.

The girl "had everything here," said Robbs, whose stepson played with Delimar. "Compare the Badlands, where the mother lives at, to here {Willingboro] ... night and day."

"She's confused," Cuevas said of her daughter, before the meeting. "The other person was saying negative things, but I hope she understands."

The girl does not speak Spanish and her mother speaks very little English.