Jay Mangina was a regular boy. As far back as he could remember, he had a normal childhood and even thought of himself as a happy person. Brought up by his father, Jonathan Mangina, he was raised in Cleveland, Ohio. Jay, nicknamed J.J., went to high school in Cleveland with his childhood friends.
As he neared the end of his high school years, J.J. started thinking about applying for colleges. However, when he sent in his applications, he encountered some concerning information regarding his social security number. That was how he found out that his whole life was based on a lie.
Jay lost his mom when he was a young child, so naturally, most of his memories were only of his dad. Back when he was younger, he’d regularly ask his dad about his mother. He wanted to hear about her because he couldn’t remember anything about her, neither personality-wise nor physically.
Surprisingly his father’s answer was negative and bitter; he would tell J.J. that she had been a cruel, heartless mother who hadn’t given much thought to her son, preoccupied only with herself. Jay was hurt by his father’s answer, feeling that it was pretty insensitive.
J.J. later discovered that none of what his father had told him was true, even his own name. The young man had no memories from his early childhood, especially from his first five years in the world. He had no way of knowing that what he’d been told was all lies.
Growing up, Jay had a good relationship with his father, Jonathan. His mother had passed away when he was five, so it had been just the two of them since then. They had no other family members, so the two made sure their father-son bond was balanced and healthy.
J.J. and his dad had very opposing personality types but shared many common interests and hobbies. From his early childhood, Jay had always loved sports. However, his doting father made sure that he cultivated other hobbies instead of focusing solely on athletic activities.
The two of them shared a passion for fishing, hiking, and basketball. Often, Jonathan would even join J.J. and his friends in the park to throw a ball around. The fact they both loved sports and the great outdoors helped them maintain a close connection, and their bond was apparent to those who knew them.
The strong connection J.J. and his father shared was enough to make some of his friends jealous. Johnathan was far less strict and uptight than many of his friend’s parents. Jonathan was a laid-back father; he didn’t set curfews or other guidelines for Jay, who was free to do as he pleased.
In his friend group, J.J. was considered the best listener and known to be sensitive and open about his feelings. His buddies always knew they could count on him if they had any problem. Jay didn’t expect that his problems would overshadow those of all his friends.
Johnathan raised Jay to be a generally confident person, but back when he got ready to start high school; the young man felt insecure. He thought that he was ugly and was nervous that he would be bullied. J.J. was scared that he wouldn’t fit in socially.
Jonathan tried to tell him everything would be fine and that he would surely get along well, but J.J. was still unsure of himself despite his father’s reassurances. However, he had no other choice but to start high school anyway, and he hoped things would work out alright.
Once school started and J.J. got comfortable, he found that it was better than he’d anticipated. Slowly he gained confidence again and made friends with many interesting new people. He had started high school wholly isolated, but he already had a new friend group by the second week.
There were mean people and bullies, but it wasn’t as bad as he’d feared, and his new friends had his back. In the end, high school was a breeze for J.J. Little did he know that his real problems would soon reveal themselves and be worse than he could ever imagine.
Jonathan raised Jay with a sound, healthy value system. The loving father wanted to make sure that his son was not only a great student and a successful athlete but, most importantly, a good person. Therefore, he encouraged his son to stay humble and do his best in everything he tried.
Jay cared a lot about his grades in school and wanted to be accepted to a prestigious university someday. The young man had always dreamed of going to college and gaining a degree. Therefore, he did his best throughout high school to maintain a high grade point average.
Due to his hard work and discipline, J.J. was able to keep up his outstanding grades. The teenager made sure to study every day after school for hours. His hard work paid off, and he started to use his knowledge to help his friends and classmates as well.
J.J. even helped tutor other classmates, and his teachers saw much promise in the young man. It was clear that he wasn’t only ambitious and geared for success but also a kind and generous person, willing to go the extra mile to help others do well too.
High school flew by quickly, and Jay began to consider where he wanted to go to university. He thought about what he should major in and where he should apply should for school. When he was a high school sophomore, he felt it was time to bring up college with his dad.
J.J. was stoked to go to college and was sure his father would beam with pride that his son was so driven and committed to succeeding in school and pursuing higher education. However, when he brought up college with his dad, Jonathan’s reaction was surprisingly negative.
J.J. sat his dad down to talk about school, but to his dismay, his father only exhibited discomfort and distaste instead of pride and joy. Jay was shocked to hear his father tell him that he didn’t like the idea of his son going to college.
Johnathan thought Jay should instead get a full-time job right after high school. He told J.J. that he was intelligent and talented enough to begin his career without getting a liberal arts degree. The young man’s father told him the college was a waste of time and didn’t support his son’s dreams.
J.J. was taken aback entirely by Jonathan’s answer; he had expected his father to be proud and excited at the prospect of college. He found it hard to believe that his supportive and loving father would think that getting a university degree was useless and pretentious.
All his friend’s parents wanted their kids to go to college, and some of them even pushed unwilling teens to apply despite their reluctance. Why, of all people, would J.J.’s dad be so morally opposed to the institution? J.J. couldn’t wrap his head around Jonathan’s dismissive reaction.
Disconcerted by their initial talk, Jay dropped the college conversation for a while, hoping to revisit it later to a more successful end. However, when he brought it up the next time, Johnathan’s reaction remained the same, anti-college and adamant that his son should not attend university but should get a job.
Every time Jay brought it up, his father became more uncomfortable and annoyed about the whole subject. Johnathan realized that J.J. wasn’t backing off and even suggested that his son take a gap year and have an adventure like a cross-country road trip.
Despite his father’s opinion, J.J. wouldn’t give up his dream of getting a higher education and, with a heavy heart, decided to go with his goals even if his dad disapproved. Therefore, the young man began the process of applying for schools without telling his father.
The time came to start filling out applications, and Jay excitedly dove into the task. He filled out applications to the schools that interested him the most and picked majors that he thought he would love and could be accepted to with the grades he had maintained.
The innocent young man had no clue that the very college applications he was so ecstatic to send in would reveal a dark secret about his past. So, he handed in his completed applications and hoped to be excepted to his top picks. But after just a few weeks, J.J. got a troubling phone call.
His school counselor called him and asked the teenager to please come to the office for a talk. Jay didn’t understand what was going on but picked up on the urgency in his counselor’s voice and realized that something wasn’t quite right.
Nervous about the discussion that awaited him, J.J. rushed to the counselor’s office, eager to get it over with. His counselor told the young man that there was an issue with the applications he had sent out. What could be so problematic that it required an urgent meeting?
It seems that some of the personal information J.J. had filled out in his applications was not correct. Apparently, his social security number didn’t match up with his name. Jay was confused by what the counselor was telling him and was sure that there must be some mistake.
But it seemed that his information just wasn’t a match and that all the universities he’d applied for had frozen his applications and flagged him because his identity wasn’t correct. The young man had no clue what to do, so even though his dad didn’t believe in college, he decided to ask him for help.
However, when he told Jonathan what was going on, he acted confused and told J.J. to drop his college dreams already and forget about the whole thing. At that moment, Jay understood that there was something shady going on with his father.
Unfortunately, Johnathan wouldn’t help him, but J.J. had to get to the bottom of his precarious situation. So, the determined young man turned to his school counselor for help. The counselor was sure there must be some logical explanation explaining why Jay’s information didn’t match up.
The two tirelessly researched the issue, making phone call after phone call, dedicated to solving the mystery. In the end, they stumbled upon the terrible truth. Apparently, his information didn’t match up because his name was Julian Hernandez, not Jay Mangina, and he was eighteen years old, not seventeen.
J.J. didn’t know what to do. With every bit of truth they uncovered, his life fell apart around him. They discovered that he had been listed as a missing person for over ten years. Even then, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children had one Julian Hernandez on their list of missing kids.
Jay, or Julian, was even able to see photographs of himself as a baby and a young child up to age five. The center had also created an image depicted, but they believed he looked like today. The entire experience was surreal.
However, finding out his own identity wasn’t the end of the horrible news. Jay found out that his father’s real name was really Bobby Hernandez, not Johnathan Mangina. Julian had been kidnapped at the age of five by his own dad.
J.J. discovered that his parents had gone through a breakup when he was five years old, and a custody battle had ensued. Bobby, his father, lost custody of Julian, and in a move of desperation, kidnapped him. Bobby then changed their names and moved to Cleveland. His mother had been alive and searching for him all this time.
Meanwhile, J.J. kept looking into his circumstances, trying to figure out why his father would do such a thing. J.J. read in an old newspaper that Bobby was supposed to take him to pre-school one day but instead abducted him and disappeared.
J.J. proceeded to search for his mother, who he was sure was still looking for him. He discovered that she was alive and living in Alabama, where he had been born and spent his first five years on earth. So, he got in his car and drove down to Alabama to meet his long-lost mom.
Apparently, Bobby had packed young Julian’s things, taken all their money, and left a note for Julian’s mom, saying that he’d taken Julian away. Julian had been so young that he hadn’t understood what was going on and believed his father, who told him that his mother had passed away.
Julian’s mother was never the same after her son was taken from her. She searched for him for years and never gave up hope, praying every night for his safe return. For the thirteen years he had been gone; she left his bedroom set up and ready for him.
The desperate mother had been unable to let it go; she thought about Julian every day. When he was first taken, she handed out fliers, called the police, added him to the missing children list, and posted online. Even so, she never got any answer, and the police couldn’t track him down.
She had borne this horrible burden for thirteen whole years, never losing hope and sure that one day her son would return to her, alive and well. However, despite her deep belief, he would someday come back, she had feared that Julian was also hurting or in danger.
Julian barely remembered his mother and lived his life believing she had died and heard that she didn’t love him. But when his mother finally heard from him, she was overjoyed to be reunited with her son at long last. Bobby, Julian’s father, wasn’t as lucky and was arrested right away.
Julian made a plea to the judge at his father’s trial, begging him not to send Bobby to jail. He stated that he’d forgiven him and that his father had done a lot of good and raised him well. Julian said Bobby was the reason he was so successful.
Julian believed that what Bobby had done was out of love and protection for him. Bobby had always provided for him and made sure Julian never drank or did drugs like other kids. Julian testified that he couldn’t go on in life without his father, saying that he loved him despite everything.
J.J. felt he’d been through enough growing up without a mother and taking away his father would be doubly traumatizing. Nevertheless, Bobby Hernandez received four years in prison for kidnapping his son and interfering with custody. Julian continued living in Cleveland rather than moving to Alabama with his mom.
Kamiyah and Gloria’s story is highly unique, in that not only did Kamiyah forgive her kidnapper, but she also stayed by her throughout the trial and till today.
In this case, Kamiyah didn’t know that she’d been abducted and wholeheartedly believed that Gloria was her mother. Only when she tried to apply to college did she discover the horrible truth. Something similar happened in 2015 to J.J. Mangina, when he started filling out college applications.