Imagine you're a child, living your happy little life with people
whom you think are your parents and family, and everything is good. Then imagine one day
being told it is all a lie - your parents, your family, even your name...
This is precisely what happened to Delimar Cuevas. She was born to
Luzaida Cuevas and Pedro Vera in 1997. Ten days later Luzaida's and Delimar's home in
Philadelphia burned to the ground in a fire sparked by an extension cord connected to a
space heater. While firefighters fought the blaze, Luzaida was held back
as she desperately wanted to get back into the home to save her daughter, whom she
believed was still trapped inside. Luz had tried to save her daughter but when she
went inside her room she was not in her crib and the window was inexplicably open. Even
though no body was found, investigators determined that newborn Delimar
expired in the fire. In lieu of no remains, they also - hastily so - concluded that her
body was so decimated in the fire that there was nothing left to be found. Luzaida was
understandably devastated. However, she was never fully convinced that her baby daughter
actually died in that fire.
Fast forward about six years: on January 24, 2004 Luz and another
little daughter she had had attended a birthday party. Also in attendance was a woman
named Carolyn Correa (from Willingboro, New Jersey). She was a cousin of Pedro Vera by
virtue of marraige and had not been seen by Luz since the fire, which had always made
Luz suspicious of her. At the party, Luz noticed that the little six-year-old girl,
Aaliyah, Carolyn was toting as her daughter looked like Delimar. Luz seized the
opportunity to once and for all prove that her daughter was not dead. She said the girl
had gum in her hair and used that as a reason to pluck some hairs from "Aaliyah's" head.
Luz took those hairs and had them examined. DNA tests did in fact prove that "Aaliyah"
was really Delimar and that Luzaida Cuevas and Pedro Vera were the six-year-old's
biological parents. In a situation reminiscent of the case of Steven Stayner in the
1970's, a child had been kidnapped and raised by their abductor. Only Stayner had some
memory of his parents. Delimar did not.
Following this revelation, Carolyn Correa was arrested and
Delimar was put in the custody of the state. Luz, 31 at the time, was officially
reunited with her long-lost daughter on Monday, March 8, 2004. Correa, 42 at the time,
was charged with arson, kidnapping, and 13 other counts. Police are also
looking into the possibility that Correa had an accomplice. Pedro Vera, Delimar's
father, who split up with Luz shortly after the fire, has been given
Kidnapper or not, Delimar, or "Aaliyah," had regarded Correa as her
mother all of her life so far. Now she must adjust to a new mother, a new family, and
eventually a new name. For now, she continues to use the name Aaliyah Hernandez to make
the transition smoother and less psychologically damaging. Supposedly, despite being
uprooted and her entire life turned upside down, Delimar/Aaliyah is reportedly quoted
as saying she's " happy."
Sources: cnn.com, yahoo.com, cbsnews.com