CLEVELAND, Ohio – A man accused of abducting his then-5-year-old son from his mother in 2002 and creating a new life for them in Cleveland under new identities was sentenced to prison this week.
Last month, Bobby Hernandez pleaded guilty to several charges, including kidnapping, KFOR sister station Fox 8 reports.
On Wednesday, he was sentenced to four years in prison.
It was suspected that his father, Bobby Hernandez, took him as part of a noncustodial parental abduction, according to the Vestavia Hills Police Department.
A lead in the case came in November 2015, when Vestavia Hills police were contacted by the FBI in Cleveland about a missing child.
The case broke when Julian was trying to apply for college, Brandon Falls, the district attorney for Jefferson County, told CNN affiliate WVTM. He ran into problems when his Social Security number didn’t match his name.
A school counselor worked with him to determine why. It was then they found out that he was on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children database.
The missing child they were able to locate and positively identify is now 19. Julian’s mother and family were notified of his recovery.
Bobby Hernandez was arrested in the abduction.
Hernandez has not been able to contact his son for the past few months, Fox 8 reports.
During Hernandez’s sentencing on Wednesday, Julian spoke about his father.
“I think that he’s done a lot of good in our time here in Cleveland,” Julian said. “He’s raised me well, in my opinion. A lot better than any other parents I’ve seen. He’s pushed me far in school, and he’s the reason why I get some of the best grades in school and why I’m going to college. He loved me and protected me more than anybody else I’ve ever known in my life. Whenever I needed something, he would make it happen. Whenever I had a problem, he would listen. When other kids were on drugs, smoking and drinking, just because of him, I never fell into any of that.”
NBC affiliate WKYC reports Hernandez wiped tears from his eyes as his son spoke.
“The time I spent with him is the only time I’ve ever truly felt at home and at peace because of how much hard work he put into everything. My family here needs him more than anything else, and I can’t imagine going on in my life without his support. Even if other people can’t, I forgive him for what he’s done. I love him, and I want him to be a part of my life and my baby sister’s life. Yes, growing up without my mother was painful at times, but taking my father away from me now just increases the pain. Taking him from me now is just doing the same thing to me now all over again. It’s damaging my family. We just need him. I don’t know what else to say other than not to send my father to jail.”
Julian reportedly told the judge that his father told him his mother lived somewhere else due to his parents breaking up.
When it came time for Hernandez to address the court, he apologized and took responsibility for his crime.
“I accept full responsibility for everything that I did,” he said. “Julian was always the most important thing to me. Some of things that have been said about me are not true. I offer my apologies to my son, and to his mother and her family. I didn’t do this like they said I did.”
Prosecutors fought for a lengthy sentence because they believed Hernandez deprived the boy of having a relationship with his mother.
According to CBS News, the boy’s mother said in a statement that they day Julian went missing was the worst day of her life.
“During my darkest moments I considered suicide,” her statement said. “I wanted to die.” The woman said she “never stopped searching” for her son.
The boy’s grandmother described Hernandez as an “angry, controlling and vengeful” person, CBS News reports.
“Bobby Hernandez kidnapped him because he wanted to get even with Julian’s mother for leaving him – this is not the sign of a good father,” the statement said.
Before sentencing Hernandez to four years in prison, followed by five years of supervised release, the judge called the case a mother’s “nightmare.”