Gone for a Decade, Until Her Mom Found Her in the Least Expected Place

Ten long and agonizing years after her five-year-old daughter Cinthya was taken from her, Kadisha Montanez received a message on Facebook. The message read: “It may be coincidence or the province of God… Tell me, could she be your daughter?” As you can imagine, Kadisha’s heart was in her throat, and her palms were sweaty as she looked at the photo she had received…

Cinthya Monatnez as a young girl with water fountains around her / Cinthya and her mother looking at a ‘welcome home’ sign while she holds a teddy bear
Source: Flickr / Pinterest

The message didn’t come from an old friend, a family member, or even a local social worker. The message came from an orphanage in Nicaragua, of all places. And they were telling this Forsyth County woman that her long-lost daughter might have been located. Not only that; they told her that the abandoned girl had been in their care for over a year. This is the bittersweet story of one mother’s living nightmare and her heartwarming reunion with her daughter after a decade.

An American Girl in… Nicaragua?

According to Kadisha, her daughter had been kidnapped by her father, Kadisha’s ex-husband, in 2009. Since then, Cinthyia had not been seen or heard from by anyone in their family. So, as Kadisha read the nun’s words, she had a hard time believing what was before her eyes. She figured maybe it was some kind of sick joke or even a scam.

Cinthya Monatnez standing with an American flag
Source: Pinterest

After all, how could her daughter, an American citizen born in Georgia’s Gwinnett County, have been found abandoned in a country thousands of miles away? It’s not like the girl had any relatives or even distant family members in Nicaragua. It simply didn’t make any sense. And Kadisha didn’t know what to make of it.

A Cause for Exploitation

“At five-years-old, on her birthday, that was the last time I saw her, and then they disappeared,” Kadisha said in an interview. At first, she didn’t believe the message she received via Facebook because, she explained, “Nowadays people will hit you up for money, and a lot of people know my story because I do tell everybody, ‘I have another daughter, I just don’t know where her father has her.’”

Cinthya Monatnez as a young girl with water fountains around her
Source: Flickr

Unfortunately, many people have tried to exploit people in Kadisha’s situation for profit. She thought, “Maybe it was somebody trying to play a sick joke or something on me.” But when the Catholic nun from the girl’s orphanage in Diriomo, Nicaragua (the Cristo Obrero Children’s Home), messaged Kadisha, she provided some convincing information.

There She Was… 3,000 Miles Away

The nun knew Cinthya’s birth date and other personal information about the girl – facts that some random stranger on the internet wouldn’t necessarily have known. All the doubts Kadisha had up to that moment disappeared. The nun’s message was real. Cinthya had, indeed, been found. She was living in an orphanage 3,000 miles away.

Kadisha receiving a kiss on the forehead from her father in her kitchen
Source: Flickr

It was at that point that Kadisha saw the photo and couldn’t believe her eyes. She jumped up and said, “Cinthya!” Kadisha described how she “wanted to cry, I wanted to scream, I wanted to run, I wanted to know where she was at so I could just get there.” The nun told Kadisha what her next steps would be.

Nothing Short of Heartbreaking

Through the nun, Kadisha, along with her son, daughter, and parents, were then able to see and speak with Cinthya on a video call. You can only imagine the sea of emotions involved. All of the family members said that the video reunion – seeing the baby of the family who clearly grew into a young woman without them – was nothing short of heartbreaking.

Kadisha hugging Cinthya in the airport
Source: Tumblr

It was a wonderful yet bittersweet moment after so many years of uncertainty and pain. “This is something that I’ve been waiting for for 10 years,” Naomi Montanez, Cinthya’s older sister, said. “When my sister was gone, it was like a part of me died with her. It was like I wasn’t the same anymore.”

The Hardest 10 Years of Her Life

As any longing mother would do, Kadisha decided that she was going to Nicaragua and wouldn’t come home without her daughter – no matter how long it took or how hard it would be. After their tearful reunion over video, Kadisha immediately sprang into action. She gathered important documents, like Cinthya’s birth certificate, and applied for an emergency passport.

Kadisha hugging Cinthya and reuniting
Source: Flickr

She then booked a flight to Nicaragua, notifying the US embassy about her situation. It took her three weeks to get there, she explained from her room at the Cristo Obrero Children’s Home: It was “the hardest 10 years of my life, and now that I’ve found her it’s like I just want her home. The whole family is waiting for her.”

Without a Trace

Cinthya was actually taken when her mother was serving time in prison for drug trafficking. While Kadisha was incarcerated, her parents were Cinthya’s legal guardians. Cinthya’s grandparents would often bring the children to see her during her seven-year sentence. This is where the father comes in…

Cinthya sitting at the table with her grandmother hugging her
Source: Tumblr

Every so often, Cinthya’s dad would take her, and only her, for the weekend, leaving the other siblings with his in-laws. Then, one weekend in February 2009, Cinthya wasn’t returned to her grandparents’ home. No explanation, no communication – nothing. The girl and her father simply disappeared without a trace. Just like that.

The Numbers

To give you a little bit of perspective (since most of us don’t regularly research the statistics on missing children), the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMES) reported in 2018 that the FBI’s National Crime Information Center had a total of 424,066 entries for missing children.

Cinthya with her siblings as a young girl posing on the front steps of her home
Source: Instagram / @nellymontanez_

In that year, of the 25,000 missing children cases that the NCMES assisted the authorities with, 4% (or 1,250 cases) were abductions by a parent or family member. Luis Serrano, Cinthya’s grandfather, said the family didn’t initially understand the full gravity of the situation. They assumed, as most people would that the girl’s father would eventually bring her back.

Finally Facing the Fact

But, as we know and as they frightfully found out, he never did. They soon realized that they were officially involved in the case of family abduction. “The weekend after Cinthya was taken, I called my mom, and she said, ‘Kadisha, he never brought Cinthya back last Sunday like he was supposed to,’” Kadisha explained.

Cinthya in the backseat of a car
Source: Flickr

She said that her parents had gone to his house to get in touch with him. But he had completely disappeared. Kadisha had to learn of all this from behind bars, which made her feel totally helpless. Once the family faced the fact that Cinthya had been abducted, Kadisha admitted that they felt like they couldn’t even go to the police.

To Report or Not

The family didn’t head straight to the police because they feared that Cinthya’s father, a former gang member, would hear about the cops getting involved and escape to Mexico. Even worse, they were worried that he would go so far as to retaliate against their family. In fact, he had even threatened to disappear with Cinthya before.

Cinthya and Kadisha with their backs turned to the camera looking up at a clear blue sky
Source: Pinterest

“I was scared,” Kadisha said. “We were all scared.” In the end, the family’s fear was the deciding factor. And, thus, they didn’t run to the authorities. It may be hard for some to comprehend, but fear is a powerful emotion and can override any logic that should technically be at the forefront of such a decision.

Was She Safe and Healthy?

The Montanez family crossed their fingers and prayed every day, hoping that eventually Cinthya would be brought home or that they would, at least, be able to find her and bring her back somehow. Kadisha had to go to sleep every night in her prison cell in perpetual misery. Where could her young daughter be? Was she okay? Was she safe and healthy? Was she eating?

Cinthya having dinner with her family after coming back home
Source: Pinterest

She may have been behind bars and physically away from her kids, but Kadisha was still a mother. “Those were hard moments,” she explained. She said that she convinced herself that her father must be taking care of her. She couldn’t accept the possibility that he wasn’t.

So Close to Home

It wasn’t until much later that Kadisha learned how wrong she was. When she finally arrived in Nicaragua ten years later and reunited with her daughter, Kadisha discovered the horrifying truth about how the last decade played out for the poor thing. It was devastating to learn that for the first six years after her abduction, her daughter and her father were living in Lawrenceville, just one county over.

Cinthya crying on Kadisha’s shoulder
Source: Flickr

Cinthya revealed to her mother what any mother dreads hearing: that as a small child, she was abused by her father, both mentally and physically. Not only him, either. The father’s new wife and the step-grandmother were abusive, too.

Despicable Lies

According to Cinthya, these people beat her, deprived her of food, and left her to sleep in the garage as punishment. On top of all the abuse, Cinthya said her dad spent years trying to ruin her early memories of the family she no longer was allowed to see.

Cinthya hugging a male family member
Source: Tumblr

He told his daughter that they never loved her, that her mother abandoned her, and that her siblings always hated her. Kadisha then learned why Cinthya herself never made any attempts on her own to find her family, once she was old enough. “I was always like, ‘Why would I find them if they don’t love me?’”

One Side of a Fake Story

Considering how she was brainwashed for so many years, it’s only natural that she figured she was all alone. “But I didn’t know that they were suffering,” Cinthya admitted. “All of that was just the story that my dad told me.” Her father fed her one side of a fake story. But it was the only tale Cinthya was ever told.

Cinthya holding an American passport posing with her mother
Source: Facebook

But what brought her to Central America? How did she eventually find herself in a Nicaraguan orphanage? In 2015, six years after her kidnapping, it was apparently Cinthya’s step-grandmother who brought her to Nicaragua, according to what Kadisha said. What the family hasn’t been able to figure out, though, is how Cinthya left the United States.

Landing in Nicaragua

The Montanezes assume that a document was forged, which gave Cinthya’s father permission to take her out of the country. It would have been fabricated since, by law, Kadisha’s parents were her legal guardians at the time – and they would have needed to give permission. What made the entire situation worse was that the authorities were never aware of it.

Cinthya walking down a ramp with her mother and another man
Source: Pinterest

The family learned that Cinthya’s abuse continued even after she was taken to Nicaragua. It lasted until she was a teenager, at which point she tried running away. At first, she ran to the police, and then to an orphanage in Granada. Finally, she found herself in the Cristo Obrero Children’s Home in Diriomo.

In the Right Hands

There, she was given a place to stay by the nuns that worked there. Cinthya was finally getting the treatment she deserved. “They really helped me when I needed it. So, I’m thankful 100%. They don’t have that responsibility to take care of us, but they do it because they love doing it.” She was finally in the right hands, even if they weren’t those of her family.

Cinthya with her mother sitting on a couch
Source: Flickr

Near the end of the year that she was in the orphanage, a new nun came onto the team for several weeks. The nun had apparently heard of Cinthya’s story from another nun there and decided that it was high time for them to help her find her family.

It Was Time to Find Them

By this point, Cinthya was 15 years old and hadn’t seen her mother or the rest of her family in more than 10 years. Considering that she was only five years old at the time of the kidnapping, she wasn’t able to provide any specific details about her mother. At first, she hesitated at even the thought of looking for her family.

Cinthya with her mother and friend walking through the airport together
Source: Pinterest

But still, she only partially believed the things her dad said about her mother, brother, and sister. Eventually, Cinthya came to her senses and gave them her mother’s name. In the digital age, sometimes a name is all you need. They searched for Kadisha on Facebook and voilà.

Like the Flip of a Switch

Cinthya didn’t know anything about her mother, aside from her name. “I always thought, ‘Where are they? Where is my brother? Where is my sister? Where is my mom?’ But I didn’t know.” Despite all the lies her father maliciously told her, Cinthya still missed her family. The nuns then came up to her and told her what they found online.

Cinthya and her mother looking at a ‘welcome home’ sign while she holds a teddy bear
Source: Pinterest

When the nuns told Cinthya that they had found her mother, Cinthya explained that it was like a switch flipped on in her brain. She realized that she desperately needed her mother and that she needed to get home. The poor girl had no idea just how much her life was about to change.

Anxiously Waiting

On November 16, 2019, Cinthya’s grandfather, Luis Serrano, was sitting anxiously waiting at his home in Peachtree Corners. He was counting down the minutes. He had been awake for six hours already, unable to sleep. Why? Because it was the day that his long-lost granddaughter was coming home.

Cinthya’s grandfather kissing her on the forehead in a beautiful reunion
Source: Pinterest

It would mark the end of a decade of torment for both him and his wife, Rosemary. The disappearance hit him and his wife particularly hard since they were the ones who were responsible for her wellbeing. “I couldn’t sleep last night, just thinking about it. By 5 a.m., I was already drinking coffee, watching TV and waiting and waiting and waiting,” Luis said.

She Was Coming Home

After all, they had basically raised Cinthya, and her siblings Naomi and Mikey, as their own children. As the moment of the reunion approached, Naomi put the finishing touches on the sign she made that read, “Welcome Home Cinthya.” Mikey was drinking coffee, nervous and anxious at the thought of seeing his now grown-up sister. “She’s my half-sister,” Mikey explained. “But we were always so close as kids.”

Cinthya and her family with signs posing together at the airport when they were reunited
Source: Pinterest

Cinthya and Kadisha were flying home together, and their flight from Nicaragua was about to land. The family could exhale; Cinthya was in America, and she was coming home. The entire family stood in their small driveway, cheering and filming with cellphones as the pickup truck drove down the road towards them.

Back in the Family Home

Even before the truck came to a full stop, the doors were already ripped open, and Cinthya was pulled into a warm embrace by six or so crying family members. “You’re so big,” was one of the first things Luis said to his granddaughter. When Cinthya went inside the house, she saw the family home that she had spent so much time in as a little girl.

Cinthya getting hugged by her grandmother
Source: Pinterest

As they ate lunch together, every so often, someone would touch Cinthya’s shoulder, as if to make sure she was actually there. Just months ago, she had no idea how much her family longed for her. “I imagined coming home when I was older; I never thought it would be right now,” Cinthya said.

A Little Overwhelming

The general feeling among her older relatives was that the long ordeal was over, but the real work was just about to begin. Cinthya and her family would need to rebuild the life and relationships that had been taken away from them. She would have to adapt to the things she went without for so many years, like a fridge full of food, hot showers, school, doctor’s visits, car rides, pets, and crowded malls filled with people.

Cinthya sitting on her mother’s lap with all of her family surrounding her in her family home
Source: Pinterest

It was all very overwhelming for Cinthya. But the family is happy to start small and gradually build their way up to the more difficult things. “She hasn’t been able to be a child,” Kadisha said as Cinthya rested on her shoulder.

One Day at a Time

“The first day, she wouldn’t come out of the room without her sister. Now she’s jumping around the house and playing with the dogs.” Cinthya got to see her new room in her mom’s house in Forsyth County. The light blue room is filled with stuffed animals, clothes, and all the things she needs to feel at home.

Cinthya shopping for Christmas trees
Source: Instagram

Cinthya will be going to counseling to get help for the trauma she suffered as a child. As for her father and the other culprits in the matter, not much is known about their whereabouts or what will happen to them legally. We can only hope that if he is found, justice will be served.

You might want to learn about a different but similar case of a missing girl who was found 20 years later…