The bond between a child and a parent is one that cannot be replaced or replicated. Parents celebrate the successes of their children and help them through their hardships and troubles. That’s why it is incredibly heartbreaking when something happens to a kid.
Meet J.J Mangina
After an incident happens, a parent doesn’t get to enjoy their life with them any longer. This story is about 18-year-old J.J. Mangina, the Cleveland, Ohio student whose school counselor noticed something odd with his social security number one day.
JJ Mangina was born in Alabama, his parents Jonathan, and his girlfriend. His parents never got married, but they were both involved in his life, up until she left them, however. When she walked out, Jonathan relocated he and JJ’s lives to Cleveland, Ohio. JJ was a successful high school junior, but when he began applying to colleges, he got an unexpected surprise.
Looking For Information
JJ was a very smart kid and he also took part in many activities; this being the reason he wasn’t worried about applying to college. Still, filling out all of the necessary paperwork for college is a long process. One of the pieces of information JJ needed for the paperwork was his father’s tax information. That’s when things began to get weird.
It Isn’t JJ
JJ had no clue, but he and his dad had been living in a huge lie this entire time, and JJ only first found out when his college admissions counselor saw that his social security was incorrect.
After searching for a bit, she found that the social security number he provided belonged to Julian Hernandez, and he was listed as a missing person by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. As it turns out, Jonathan’s (JJ’s) real name is actually Julian. When all of this information surfaced, JJ started having many questions.
One day during the summer of 2002, Julian’s mom left her Vestavia Hills apartment to run errands, and she asked Bobby to watch their son in the meantime. They lived in two different apartments in the same building, so the request wasn’t weird. Julian’s mother had no idea this would be the last time she’d see her son.
Not Even A Goodbye
While Julian’s mom was out running errands, Bobby began putting his plan into motion. He packed up all of their belongings, emptied his bank account, and left town without telling a soul. When she came back from her errands, she came home to an empty house with a note. Julian’s mom reported him missing on August 28, 2002.
He Didn’t Go Far
When Julian and his father left Alabama, they didn’t go as far as you’d think. They moved to Cleveland, which is about a 10-hour drive away. However, they had to keep their old identities a secret.
The New Bobby And Julian
In order to do this, it was important that Bobby had every piece of identification changed about the two of them. They completely rebranded themselves and left their old lives behind; Bobby and Julian were now known as Jonathan and J.J. Mangina.
The Police Tried To Help
Immediately after Julian was reported missing, the police began a huge search all over the area looking for him. Posters of a missing brown-haired, brown-eyed boy were plastered all over the city and the internet.
His Mother’s Help
His mother worked closely with the police and the two things that she used to let the police know how to identify him were that his left cheek had a dimple and that he may stutter while speaking.
A Good Dad
Bobby raised Julian all on his own and took on all parenting responsibilities. While Julian attended school full-time, Bobby worked at a factory. According to Julian, Bobby could not have been more of a perfect father to him. He said that he perfected parenting by looking out for Julian both financially and emotionally. Julian, who went by JJ this whole time, says that he had a great childhood.
Out Of Leads
Even though over the years the police got a few tips here and there, none of them ever lead to getting any answers about where Julian could be. His mother had given up hope and couldn’t do anything other than mourn for her son.
The police thought he may have been taken by a “non-custodial parent”, but there really was no way of tracking something like this. They thought they had reached the end of their ropes until one day when JJ’s guidance counselor discovered something huge.
A Confused Julian
It makes perfect sense that Julian felt a huge sense of confusion in this situation; after all, he didn’t even know that he had been kidnapped in the first place. Julian was only five years old when his whole life was uprooted from Alabama to Ohio.
Turning Things Around
It’s likely that he doesn’t even remember living in Alabama. Bobby dedicated his life to telling Julian that the story occurred as Julian’s mother leaving them- not the other way around- making her sound like the villain.
They Caught Bobby
After it was discovered who JJ really is, Bobby was arrested almost immediately after. The police took him into custody on November 2, 2015. A few weeks later, Bobby was officially charged with the first kidnapping.
Then he was also charged with interference with custody, forgery (first-degree, fifth-degree, and misdemeanor), and tampering with records. The forgery and tampering charges came from when Bobby faked Julian’s information, including his birth certificate, in order to enroll him in school.
Understandably, Julian’s mother was a bit hesitant to get too excited when the police had first given her the news that her long lost son had finally been found at last. Once it was officially confirmed that it was her baby Julian, she couldn’t have been more overflowed with pure joy than she was.
He Paid For The Heartache
In the trial against Bobby, Julian’s mother had stated that she strongly believes that Bobby kidnapped their son and moved away with him to get revenge on her for leaving him all those years ago. Julian’s maternal grandmother stepped in as well, stating that she hopes his sentence lasts for “as long as our suffering has been.”
Bobby’s appointed attorney, Robert DeFranco, defended Bobby’s decisions in his hearing. He brought up the argument that there was no one who could have raised Julian more perfectly, and that Bobby was truly a great parent.
DeFranco mentioned that Julian was both a star student and a skilled sports player, both of which he attributes to the way Bobby raised him. Bobby told DeFranco that he knew he would get caught one day– it was inevitable– and that he felt awful about how things happened.
The Perfect Dad
Throughout the entire trial process, Julian stuck by his father’s side and defended him until the end. He said over and over again that Bobby was the “perfect father,” and mentioned how many amazing things he had done for Julian throughout his life. On the day that Bobby got his sentence, Julian stood in front of the judge and begged him not to send his father to jail.
Julian Posted Online
Before this story even became public, Julian posted about it on Reddit because he simply didn’t know who else to turn to for advice anymore. The post said: “Sometime between the ages of 3 and 5, my dad took me, against a court order, away from my mother without me even knowing this.”
Love Doesn’t Fade
“He changed my name and SSN and did something similar for himself. I have lived my entire life up until a few days ago oblivious to this fact (I was told the name people had been calling me when I was young was my current middle name.) I only discovered all this as I was applying for scholarships. I’m not angry at my father in the slightest. I remember that he used to ask me ‘If I ever committed a terrible crime, would you still love me?’ I still do, even after learning everything.”
Dad Pleads Guilty
Bobby ended up being charged by a grand jury on 32 counts; he pleads guilty to one count of forgery, two counts of kidnapping, two counts of interference of custody, and ten counts of tampering with records. On April 13, 2015, he was sentenced to serve four years in an Ohio prison.
Julian Strives For A Normal Life
Julian did not want his life to be more turned upside down than it needed to from this story, so he asked the paparazzi and media to leave him alone and let him live as normally as he can.
The Search For Normalcy
Julian said that all he wishes is that he could go back to the way his life was before he knew of any of his father’s poor actions. Julian decided to go to Alabama for Thanksgiving in 2015 to spend some time with his mother, but it is unclear if the two remained in contact after that.
In 2002, Bobby made a rash decision that affected and drastically changed the lives of everyone involved. Julian’s mother was left in the dark about whether her son was safe or where he was, and Julian grew up thinking that his mom was a horrible person. Regardless of the intentions or ideas that Bobby had behind this huge decision, he had to face the music now.