Teen discovered his true identity while applying for college

The story of Julian Hernandez is one that has been all over the American media, but still there are those who don’t know all of the details.

To start from the end, rather than the beginning, an 18-year-old boy, a senior in high school, just wanted to apply to the colleges of his dreams. Instead, what he got in return was a pile of returned applications as there was an issue with his social security number and name. Initially he didn’t think too much of it and thought there was some kind of mistake, but eventually he took the issue to his guidance counselor at the high school and ended up finding out a horrific element of his childhood that was kept secret from him his entire life.

Once Julian found out the secret, he went on the website Reddit to try and get advice from people all over the internet as to how to handle the situation and make sure that no one got hurt in the process. He was thinking about everyone but himself. Once news broke that Julian was who he said he was, the media swarmed in to try and get every single element of the case before Julian even knew what to do with it. All he wanted was an ordinary life. He wanted to go to college, have a girlfriend, spend time with his friends and family and just be a regular all-American boy. What he got instead is a scandal that rocked the nation, a true crime story that one could only write about in books but was real for this teen. We are happy to take you through the story of Julian Hernandez.


Julian Hernandez was just a regular senior in high school who was looking forward to applying to colleges to pursue a path of higher education. He was a very good student with a good grade point average and extra curricular activities under his belt. The 18-year-old sent out college applications to several schools of his choice. He had no idea at the time that this simple act would change his life as he knew it.

Returned applications

Every single one of the applications that Julian sent out came back. The reason – the name and social security number did not match. Julian found this to be very strange and went to his guidance counselor to get to the bottom of this issue so he could resend the applications with the correct information. Together with the counselor, Julian was about to find out something incredibly dark from his past.

Realizing he was a missing kid

It was Julian’s school counselor who found out that his name was on a missing children’s list as part of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. She told Julian immediately. Julian, who was shocked, to say the least, took to the website Reddit to ask people for advice as to what to do with the fact that his father kidnaped him without him knowing it.

Reddit thread

Julian wrote a plea to people, asking them to help him. He wrote: “Sometime between the ages of 3 and 5, my dad took me, against a court order, away from my mother without me even knowing this. He changed my name and SSN and did something similar for himself. I have lived my entire life up until a few days ago oblivious to this fact (I was told the name people had been calling me when I was young was my current middle name.) I only discovered all this as I was applying for scholarships and my dad was unable to provide tax info because of all the fraud(?) and he explained everything to me. I learned yesterday after finding my page on a missing child database that I am actually 18 (my fake records say I’m 17).”

Advice about his own disappearance

“I am a senior in high school and would like to know how I could, if possible, correct my school records with my real name and SSN, so that I might keep the straight A’s, high ACT scores, etc that I have busted my ass for the past 3 years for. I hope to resolve this as quickly as possible, so that I might still have time to get scholarships for college.”

His feelings about his father

“I’m not angry at my father in the slightest. I remember that he used to ask me “If I ever committed a terrible crime, would you still love me?” I still do, even after learning everything. My father has done his best to deal with the mistakes he has made and he clearly regrets them. He has raised me well. I wouldn’t have done so well in school without his pressure, and I am perfectly clean and sober, without any criminal records.”

His little sister

“I know my father has dug himself a deep hole with over a decade of fraud and tax evasion. I want to know how I can resolve these problems in the quickest, least painful way possible.Other things worth mentioning: I now have a little sister who is only a few years old. I want to keep my father out of jail so that he can take care of her.”

The end of the plea

“Her mother’s family is the type of despicable people who a child should never grow up with. I don’t care what it takes, my baby sister will never live with those people by herself. I asked one of my school counselors to get me in touch with a lawyer, but I haven’t heard from her in a few days. So please I just need some advice.”


In this flyer about Julian’s disappearance, we see that the man listed as a suspect is his father. The local police department believed him to be a credible suspect as he also vanished when young Julian went missing, leading detectives to believe that he was the culprit. The custody that was taken away from him didn’t stop him from taking his son for good.

What really happened

So how did Bobby Hernandez manage to take 5-year-old Julian? He asked his former wife to babysit his son after kindergarten and she innocently agreed. Julian’s mother had full custody of her son at the time. When she returned, expecting to see her son and ex-husband, she found a note from Bobby saying that he had taken Julian for good.

Where did Bobby take Julian?

Bobby took young Julian to Cleveland, Ohio. It was there that Bobby met his new girlfriend and shared a home with her and her children as well. Julian was raised in that house for 13 years that he was away, under a fake name and social security number. He had no idea that he was taken from his mother and grew up thinking she was gone.

Searching for Julian

Julian’s mother never gave up hope that she would find her son as she knew that his father was the one that took him and that he wouldn’t harm him. That being said, she couldn’t find him no matter what she did. In a statement in court, she said, “‘During my darkest moments I considered suicide,” her statement said. “I wanted to die.” The woman said she “never stopped searching” for her son.'”

People magazine

The celebrity magazine even got the story of Julian on their website, discussing the details of the case in their ‘crime’ area of the site. They stated, “After spending 13 years with his father, who Julian says pushed him toe excel in school and is the reason he’s going to college today, questions about the boy’s identity last fall during his college application process.”

Reddit comments

After Julian posted his long plea on Reddit, there were many commenters who wanted to give him advice and help him out. Some of the comments were: “I know you’re attached to your father, and don’t want him to get into trouble, but remember there are two sides to every story. Right now, you have just heard his side. There may be a lot more to it that he hasn’t told you yet. I suggest you focus on yourself. Pick which name you want to keep, and then get everything changed over to that name. This may require the assistance of a lawyer. You can change your name without having to provide any explanation to anyone. Don’t worry about your dad too much, because you have no control over what he’s done.”

Father and son

Bobby took Julian, so he says, so that he could be with his son. Julian’s mother’s side of the family said that Bobby took Julian to get back at Julian’s mother for leaving him and taking his son from him. Either way you slice it, kidnapping your own child away from his mother and letting him believe that she had left him is not the way to go.

Advising the mom

“Police Lt. Johnny Evans of the Birmingham suburb of Vestavia Hills said Julian’s mother was told on Monday that Julian had been found, but that she was initially cautious after years of disappointment. ‘Over the years there have been hundreds of sightings. You know, ”He’s here, he’s here, he’s here”,’ Evans said.” Any mother would understand this form of apprehension on behalf of Julian’s mom.

Cleveland news

Local news channels got wind of the story and in the city of Cleveland, Ohio, where Bobby and Julian were living for years, the news struck harder than most. They wrote: “Bobby Hernandez, 53, pleaded guilty in a Cleveland courtroom to two counts of kidnapping, two counts of interference with custody and 10 counts of tampering with records. Hernandez’s ruse fell apart last fall when his son Julian, then 18, discovered discrepancies with his Social Security number when he began applying for college.”

Statement from mom’s side

Once the news broke that Julian has truly been found and the mother had been notified, her family commented to the press: “Our family was overjoyed this week to locate Julian and learn that he is safe. We want to thank everyone for their prayers and support during Julian’s disappearance.” The relief this family must have felt was palpable to say the least.

How his father kept himself hidden

Bobby Hernandez was able to get away with what he did for so long due to the fact that he moved across state lines, as well as changed his name. Bobby was living under the name Jonathan Mangina for the 13 years that they were in Cleveland and on the run (even without Julian knowing). Julian was known as JJ and his documents were also changed, along with his social security number.

His father’s punishment

Bobby Hernandez was sentenced to four years in prison followed by another five years of supervised release. Bobby was charged with abduction and forgery of documentation, also known as tampering with records. This case is not a simple one, especially since the child in question is no longer a minor. Julian was not abused by his father in any way, but the fact that his father abducted him speaks volumes as to his personality.

Reunited with his mother

Julian was reportedly reunited with his mother over the holidays following the discovery. There are no photos and no comments about the reunion as they remain very private and wish for the public to respect the fact that this entire ordeal was traumatizing for everyone involved. Imagine finding out that your mother is not only alive but has been looking for you for years.

Daily Mail

The news of what had happened to little Julian Hernandez made its way to the news like wildfire. The Daily Mail did an in depth expose about the story from that to finish and made sure to leave nothing out. Bullets include: “Julian Hernandez was five when he was reported missing by his mother in Birmingham, Alabama, in August 2002.”

Julian speaking on his father’s behalf

Incredibly, Julian wasn’t angry with his father for taking him as he was a good father to him, as Julian explains. He said, “‘I remember that he used to ask me “If I ever committed a terrible crime, would you still love me?” ‘I still do, even after learning everything. My father has done his best to deal with the mistakes he has made and he clearly regrets them. ‘He has raised me well. I wouldn’t have done so well in school without his pressure, and I am perfectly clean and sober, without any criminal records.'”

Julian’s statement

Following the very public trial and media buzz surrounding Julian’s case, Julian came out with a statement asking for the public to respect his privacy and the privacy of his family and friends. Many people in his father’s life were stunned to learn of what he had done and were shaken to the core. Julian himself has not commented beyond what he wrote online and said in the court room.