Mother, kidnapped daughter connect after spending two decades

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Adoption News

Feb 13, 2006, 11:54:34 PM2/13/06

Mother, kidnapped daughter connect after spending two decades apart
February 13,2006
Marc B. Geller
The Monitor

DONNA - Vanessa Atilano was about 10 years old when her parents told
her she was adopted.

They lied.

The people who took her from Philadelphia to Guadalajara when she was 2
years old weren't her adopted parents. They were her kidnappers.

Atilano, who doesn't speak English, learned the truth about three
months ago from the man she lovingly calls "Papá."

"It made me very scared," she said Sunday. "Curious, too."

Curious enough that, despite her fear, she decided to seek out the
woman who had given birth to her more than two decades earlier and more
than 2,000 miles away.

Now 23 years old, Atilano was working at Cesar's Drive In, a
convenience store at 3011 E. Business 83 in Donna about

6 p.m. Friday when she flagged down Donna police Sgt. Sebastian
Guerrero and told him her story. Donna police contacted their
counterparts in Philadelphia but were told the department's missing
persons database didn't go back far enough to check out Atilano's

But with information from Atilano's birth certificate, which her
"father" had given her, Philadelphia police quickly located her
biologicial mother, Olga Vega, and confirmed she had reported Atilano
missing all those years ago.

Vega explained Sunday from her home in Philadelphia that she was a
penniless 16-year-old, single mother when she gave birth to Atilano.
She remembers that her older sister had introduced her to a middle-aged
couple - Hector and Celia Mora - at a dinner party and that the
woman had admired her children.

"She wished she could have a child, but she couldn't have any."

Vega said Celia Mora inquired whether she would be willing to put
Atilano and her older sister, Daisy, up for adoption, but that she
flat-out refused.

The couple apparently managed to convince authorities that Vega was an
unfit mother and got custody of Atilano. Vega says that by the time she
got the matter straightened out with the court and went to get her
daughter, the couple and the 2-year-old were no where to be found.

"The hardest part is and was not knowing where they have gone," she
said. "At least to ease my pain, they should have sent letters and
pictures, but they didn't even do that."

Joy finally replaced Vega's pain Friday. About three hours after
Atilano flagged down Guerrero, Vega and her daughter were hearing each
other's voices for the first time in more than 21 years.

"She broke down into tears," police spokeswoman Donna Ennis said of the
23-year-old. "It touched all of us that night, everybody that was on
duty. It's just not something that happens on a regular basis. But it
was real gratifying to everybody that we were able to find her mother
and get them on the phone together so quickly."

"I'm very, very happy," said Atilano, adding she's looking forward
to meeting her mother.

Vega, for her part, said she and her oldest daughter never gave up hope
of finding Atilano and talked about it as recently as Wednesday.

"This is very overwhelming," Vega said Sunday from her home in
Philadelphia. "It's just a beautiful gift. Just to find her again,
it's like a dream come true. ...

"It has been very hard for me. I've been depressed for many years."

The past years haven't been easy for Atilano either.

"She felt that her 'mother' didn't love her," Vega said,
referring to the woman whose name appears on Atilano's faked Mexican
birth certificate as Maria Celia de la Luz Mendizabal Perez.

"She said that she was mentally abused and physically abused by her
'mother,'" Vega said. "But the 'father' was very nice to her,
and he had told her the truth and gave her money and said, 'Go find
your mother, because she really, truly loves you.'"

Vega said she's deeply touched that her daughter had the desire and
courage to seek her out after so much time had passed and despite
Mora's lies to Atilano that her mother had given her up for adoption
because she didn't love her.

"The first thing I told her when I got on the phone is that I love her
very much," Vega said, recalling the 45-minute conversation she had
with her daughter Friday.

Though bad weather in the Philadelphia area has hindered Vega's
travel plans, she hopes to reunite with her daughter Tuesday here in
the Rio Grande Valley.

In time, Atilano will meet not only her older sister, Daisy, whom she
hasn't seen in more than two decades, but also Vega's four other
children, who range in age from 1 to 18.

Donna police, meanwhile, have contacted the FBI and expect the federal
agency will follow up with Mexican authorities regarding the


Marc B. Geller covers McAllen and general assignments for The Monitor.
You can reach him at (956) 683-4445.


Jan 28, 2015, 1:31:56 AM1/28/15
Great news for Olga vega , mother of Vanessa . But afther this news , the police or the F. B. I. Never Search for Celia Mora the kipnapper who lives In Camden , New Jersey . Olga Vega and family , specially her uncle Luis Vega , spend time and money getting all her papers , housing her , caring for her. But ,was use by her dougther Vanessa Atilano , who became USA citizen and continue her relationship with her kipnapers as parents . Today , Celia Mora has not serve any time in jail or the police had made any effort to bring charges. Olga Vega was forgotten and today she suffers from mental and emotional problems , while her dougther have move on with her life and never try to get to know her mother ..........

Jan 28, 2015, 1:31:56 AM1/28/15

Apr 13, 2016, 7:04:52 PM4/13/16
Today is March 13/2016 and Celia Mora Mendizabal and Hector Mora the elege father of Vanessa Atilano which are the kidnappers of Vanessa , are free and no charges . Celia Mora Mandizaval life in Camden New Jersey few mines away were the kipnaping Ocour . Celia Mora have a sister that for many years work at the Camden municipal curt ,was the link between New Jersey and Mexico .
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