A 20-year-old who read about his abduction in a newspaper story last month convinced his father to turn himself in this week.
Dee Ann Adams, 40, was awarded primary custody of her son, Stephen Michael Palacios, when she divorced. But the Bedford woman's then 3-year-old son disappeared 17 years ago after a visit with his father, Stephen Palacios Jr., in Waco.
"I am so excited," his mother, Dee Ann Adams, 40, told the Waco Tribune-Herald. "I'm really not even sure how I feel right now. It has been such a long time, and I had to move on. I had other kids I had to take care of. I am happy, and I am hoping we can rebuild our relationship, but the main thing is that I am in shock right now."
The boy's father was on the U.S. marshals' most-wanted list of fugitives. As recently as 2006, investigators put a Palacios family wedding under surveillance in Waco, but the elder Palacios didn't show. Later that year, they had missing-person photos of the son mailed to 80 million homes in the U.S.
Then the grown-up son saw an Aug. 29 article in the Waco newspaper about the alleged abduction, according to Adams. In the story, police asked for the public's help in solving the case. The article included a photo of Palacios as a toddler.
"I was told that Stephen Michael somehow saw the article in your newspaper and told his dad that he wanted to meet his mom," his mother told the newspaper. "Stephen Michael told him, 'I want to meet my mom, and I want you to do the right thing and get this taken care of now."'
On Thursday, father and son went to a Houston lawyer's office, where the older man surrendered to federal authorities on charges of interference with child custody.
The elder Palacios' attorney, Paul Nugent, said the former high school Latin teacher and basketball coach always provided for his son.
"He's made some errors in judgment," he said. "They were motivated by love and not by any ill will. He's raised his son to love and respect everyone, especially his family."
Fort Worth family law attorney Janice Schattman, who has dealt with two parental kidnapping cases in her 22-year career, said they are uncommon.
"Most people are not willing to live as a fugitive for years and years," she said. "They have jobs. They have homes. They have other relatives, contacts within the community, and people are going to know. If you are forcing the child to live as a fugitive with you, that's going to isolate the child from the rest of the world, and you are certainly taking the child away from the extended family that's so important."
Stephen Michael Palacios will turn 21 next week.
His father, 42, is in the custody of U.S. marshals in Houston and is charged with kidnapping. He will be extradited to Waco within 10 days.
"I called the detectives and deputy marshals in Waco that have been looking for him for the past 17 years, and there was a sigh of relief. They were very happy," said Deputy Cameron Welch, of the U.S. Marshals Service.
Authorities have not said where father and son had been living all these years, whether they were using aliases and what the father had told the son about his past. It was unclear how much the son knew before reading the newspaper story. Nor was it clear how he realized the story was about him.
Richard McCall, an attorney who represented Adams in the divorce, told The Associated Press that Palacios is a "narcissistic, self-centered, controlling guy" and rejected his claims of acting in his son's best interest as "a bunch of bunk."
Reached by the AP at her home in Bedford, Adams said she was overwhelmed and declined to say when she would be reunited with her son. Adams, who remarried and has several other children, told the Waco paper that her ex-husband "stole 17 years from me."