A mother who was told her newborn baby died in a house fire was shocked to find out six years later that the girl had been kidnapped and was alive.
Luz Cuevas was at an acquaintance’s child’s birthday party in 2004 when she saw a girl with dark hair who looked strikingly familiar. Though it was hard to be sure because Luz’ daughter had been lost at a very young age and babies change drastically as they grow, yet the little girl’s dimples were unmistakable and Luz suspected it was her daughter, who she was told died in a house fire six years ago.
Luz said she had always held on to a shred of hope that her girl was alive, so she called to the child who, by then, went by the name of Aaliyah. Luz said to Aaliyah that she had bubblegum in her hair and offered to fix it for her, then quickly pulled out several strands of hair.
According to media reports at the time, Luz picked up the trick from cop show, knowing that to prove this feeling in her gut, she would have to get a DNA sample. She took the hair for a DNA test which revealed that her instinct was right. The little girl known as Aaliyah was, in fact, her daughter, Delimar Vera.
In 1997, Luz’s 10-day-old baby Delimar Vera was sleeping in the upstairs front bedroom when a fire broke out at her family’s house in Philadelphia. Luz couldn’t find Delimar when she ran into the room, the cot was empty and the window open. She stood there astonished, sustaining burns on her face before becoming overcome by smoke.
Remains of the infant’s body were never found, and police concluded they had been incinerated in the flames. Luz said years later that she never fully believed their explanations.
Hysterical, she had screamed at the firemen that she thought her baby had been stolen, but she was told, “maybe it was my nerves”.
It was later revealed that Delimar had been kidnapped by Luz’s cousin by marriage to Delimar’s father, Carolyn Correa, who started the fire to cover her tracks after stealing the baby.
Carolyn is believed to have taken the child to live with her in New Jersey, pretending she was her own.
She was charged with kidnapping, arson, assault, concealing the whereabouts of a child and interfering with the custody of a child. Correa was later convicted and sentenced to between nine and 30 years in prison, Fox News reports.
Aaliyah was returned to her birth mother, who she’d never known, and renamed Delimar.
“I’m at my real home,” the child told reporters when she was returned. Asked how she felt, she replied with a giggle: “Happy.”