Girl Presumed Dead, Mom Reuniting

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A judge approved a plan to grant custody to the biological mother of a 6-year-old girl who was allegedly snatched from her crib as a newborn.

"I'm going to have her pronto — very, very soon," Luz Cuevas, the mother of Delimar Vera, said Thursday.

Her lawyer, Andrew Micklin, said the custody transfer will be a gradual process before the girl lives permanently with her mother.

Shortly after the Family Court hearing ended about 6:30 p.m., the girl and her biological parents were reunited at an undisclosed New Jersey location, according to broadcast reports.

The little girl's case was thrown into the national spotlight Monday, when authorities in Philadelphia announced they were charging the only mother she has ever known — Carolyn Correa — with kidnapping, arson and 13 other crimes.

Police said Correa took the 10-day-old baby from her crib in December 1997 and then set fire to the home to cover her tracks. The infant was thought to have been consumed in the flames.

Cuevas attorney Anthony Cianfrani said the biological mother told authorities she believed Delimar had been kidnapped, but that nothing was done.

In the meantime, Correa, 42, named the baby Aliyah Hernandez and raised her in Willingboro, New Jersey, just a few miles (kilometers) from Philadelphia.

Six years passed before Correa, the little girl and Cuevas all wound up at the same birthday party, where Cuevas said she had a hunch Aliyah Hernandez was really her own daughter.

To obtain possible DNA evidence Cuevas thought would prove the girl was hers, Cuevas pretended there was gum in the child's hair so she could pull off several strands. The strands were later turned over to police.

But Chad Summerfield, a forensic scientist with the Philadelphia police, said tests were unable to produce any DNA because the strands lacked roots or follicles. As a result, authorities took swabs of saliva from the girl, Correa and the couple who were believed to be the little girl's biological parents.

Within days, authorities were able to prove Cuevas and Pedro Vera were the biological parents. Correa was charged this week, and is being held on $1 million bail. Delimar Vera has been in the care of New Jersey's Division of Youth and Family Services.

According to the custody plan approved Thursday by Superior Court Judge James Morley, Cuevas and Vera will share legal custody but the girl will live with Cuevas.

Micklin said a child psychologist would be present at the initial meetings. Officials have said they need to proceed cautiously because the girl has grown up knowing the woman charged with her kidnapping as her mother.

Another complication in the new mother-daughter relationship is that Delimar does not speak Spanish and her mother speaks very little English.

Cuevas said she intended to improve her English and hopes her daughter will learn Spanish. She also said at first she will call the girl Aliyah, the name she's been known as virtually all of her life.

Cuevas, 31, said she has been told her daughter is excited to meet her.

"I don't think she understands," everything that has happened, Cuevas said.

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 Philadelphia over the botched fire investigation.