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Alabama child missing for 13 years found in Ohio, police say

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. » A 5-year-old boy who went missing from his home in Alabama 13 years ago has been found unharmed as a young man living with his father in Ohio, thanks in part to red flags raised when he tried to apply to college, authorities said.

Julian Hernandez’s mother reported him missing from the Birmingham area in 2002. The case cracked open with a tip on Oct. 30, officials said this week.

Hernandez was applying to several colleges, but there was an issue with his Social Security number, said Lt. Kevin York of the Vestavia Hills Police Department, near Birmingham. He approached a school counselor, who was trying to help when she realized Hernandez was listed as missing by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, District Attorney Brandon Falls in Jefferson County, Alabama, told local media outlets.

Apparently, Hernandez had been living with his father, 53-year-old Bobby Hernandez, in Cleveland, on the city’s west side, authorities said. He was living under an assumed name, York said.

A woman and two other children lived in the home, according to the Cleveland Division of the FBI.

Bobby Hernandez has been charged with tampering with records in Ohio to get a driver’s license in 2012, and police say he’ll face additional charges in Alabama. He’s being held in Ohio on a $250,000 bond.

“We are in the process of getting charges on him and when that happens, when he is adjudicated in Ohio, then he will be extradited back to Jefferson County,” said Lt. Johnny Evans of the Police Department in Vestavia Hills, outside Birmingham.

Falls told local media outlets he’s seeking charges involving interference with custody. That’s a class C felony carrying a prison term of one to 10 years.

Court records show that Hernandez was declared indigent in Ohio, and the court appointed attorney Ralph DeFranco to represent him. A message seeking comment was left at DeFranco’s office in Cleveland on Thursday.

Prosecutor’s spokesman Joseph Frolik said the investigation is ongoing, but he had no additional comment Thursday. A preliminary hearing is set for Nov. 12.

York said police in Alabama have been in contact with the young man’s mother, who still lives in the Birmingham area. He said she has asked police not to release her name or address and has requested privacy.

“She was very happy that he had been found, quite ecstatic, but she was also somewhat hesitant because there had been so many false leads through the years,” York said.

Associated Press writer Lisa Cornwell in Cincinnati contributed to this report.

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