This was the moment she was waiting for. Finally some truth, some answers. No mother should go through what Lyneth went through. Never in a million years would she wish what she went through on anyone, not even her own worst enemy. Which at times, was herself.
Arriving at Connecticut Airport, hundreds of miles away from her home in Canada, Lyneth steps out into the pickup area, hoping that she’ll finally be given answers about her son’s disappearance. She had been waiting 31 years for this moment.
It was a warm summer day in June 1987 when Lyneth pulled up to a dollar store on Islington Avenue in the north of Toronto. She was picking up her son Jermaine, from his father Alan who had arranged to meet Lyneth there at 4 pm.
Jermaine was just a baby when the two parents decided to separate, but despite this, Jermaine was a happy child, with a smile and laugh that could light up a room. She couldn’t wait to see him. But she had no idea what was to come.
Lyneth had spent the day doing all the typical things you do when you’re child-free for the day. Grocery shopping, daily errands, etc.
She even bought Jermaine a toy, a fluffy plush lion with big brown eyes – just like Jermaine. Lions were his favorite. She knew he would love it. But little did she know her whole world was about to come crashing down.
The clock has just gone 4 pm and Lyneth watches a family across the road. They’re laughing, smiling, and enjoying each other’s company. Lyneth smiles to herself.
Strangely, the little boy, who’s clinging onto his father’s shoulders, resembles her own son. He waves at Lynteh and she waves back before checking her watch. It’s now 4:09. Where were they? As the minutes passed, she could feel a terrible feeling in her stomach.
Lyneth’s heart is pounding. She can feel it in her chest. The time is now 4:20 pm and Alan and Jermaine still haven’t shown up. Suddenly, a swarm of anxiety hits Lyneth and she stumbles to the ground, dropping the toy she had personally picked for Jermaine.
As she gets up and races into her car, she dials 911 and speeds off. Leaving behind a cloud of smoke and Jermaine’s teddy bear.
The sound of silence fills the empty home of Lyneth. Perched on a chair in her kitchen, Lyneth’s eyes are sore and her head is throbbing.
It has been 48 hours since she waited at the dollar store. Since she waited to see her little boy and give him his teddy bear. But now she has neither her son nor his teddy bear.
A couple of months passed and even after the Toronto police conducted an extensive search there was no trace of Jermaine. As expected, Lyneth was devasted.
And slowly but surely, those couple of months turned into a couple of years, and the next thing Lyneth knew, she was celebrating what would be Jermaine’s 25th birthday in her empty home. This couldn’t be it, could it?
Over the years, numerous agencies had attempted to solve the disappearance of Jermaine. But there were still no leads. Even the Missing Children Society of Canada (MCSC) became involved but still, nothing. All Lyneth had left were the memories in her mind and a few images of her little boy. But Lyneth refused to give up. In 1989 she appeared in The Toronto Star hoping to raise even more awareness.
There were suspicions that Allan had abducted Jermaine, and taken him over to the United States, but there was no concrete evidence. However, there would soon be a crack in this heartbreaking case that would change everything.
Across the border, in the United States, there was an equal dedication to finding out what happened to Jermaine. His story was featured on the Charley Project, a database dedicated to publicizing missing person cases in the United States.
Unfortunately, this still didn’t give police a lead. Despite all this, there was still one person that was adamant to find Jermaine. And he wouldn’t rest until he did.
A ray of light in a world of darkness, former policeman Ted Davis had been investigating for MCSC for three decades. After meeting Lyneth and watching her wear her heart on her sleeve, Davis made a promise to Lyneth and her family that he’d do everything in his power to make sure Jermaine was brought back home.
And so finally, in 2016 – almost 30 years after Jermaine had disappeared, there came a break in the 3-decade-old case.
That same year, Ted had attended a conference alongside members of the Toronto police and representatives of the United States.
When at the event, the attendees started to discuss Jermaine’s disappearance which ultimately sparked further interest. As Ted left the conference little did he know investigators would have some fresh leads to follow.
By the end of summer 2018, investigators had got in contact with numerous people who were Allan’s acquaintances. With each person they spoke to, investigators hoped they would be able to get some vital information.
Some suggested that Allan may have made his way 500 miles east of Toronto, residing in Connecticut. But it wasn’t until they spoke to one of Alan’s closet friends that they would land a crucial clue that would finally lead police to Jermaine.
Supposedly, Allan had created a new name, a new alias, and a brand new identity. He was going by the name of Hailee Randolph DeSouza and living in New Haven, a coastal city on Long Island Sound, in Connecticut.
Police issued a warrant for the man’s arrest. Meanwhile, in New Haven, special agent Scott Brown’s personal cell phone rang. And the man on the other end of the line gave him a seemingly unrelated tipoff that would finally crack the case.
With the mystery finally about to be solved, investigators enlisted forensic experts to help join the case. They examined the ID photo that was on record for DeSouza’s son.
And slowly but surely in October 2018, the team was able to confirm what they had all been hoping for: that DeSouza’s son and Jermaine were probably the same. They had a match! But first, they had to catch Allan. The team was unaware that Special agent Scott Brown’s team in New Haven would get to him first.
Investigators were excited that they finally had some answers. But they knew they needed to make a move; they had to find Allan before it was too late.
An anonymous source claimed Allan often spent his time at the local KFC that he owned. And so, two different sets of investigators set off to bring Allan to justice and make him pay for his crimes. But would that be the case today?
“This is the police,” screamed Officer John Erwin as they raided the KFC restaurant. The team scanned the room looking for their suspect, Hailee Randolph DeSouza.
Startled employees stood around. But when Erwin entered the kitchen and lifted a whiteboard on a hunch, he discovered an 8-inch hole in the wall. He called backup. They began to chip away at the plaster surrounding the hole, revealing a deep shaft. What had they found?
Officer John Erwin shone a flashlight into the pitch-black shaft and was astounded to see hundreds of wooden planks lining the walls.
The team carefully climbed inside, down into a dark passageway. The tunnel was three feet wide and five feet tall — large enough for a man to fit easily inside. Officer Erwin took a deep breath, and then he disappeared into the tunnel.
The officers followed, walking along the tunnel quietly and praying that armed guards weren’t waiting for them on the other side. But just how deep did the passageway go? And what would they find?
Suddenly, the silence was broken by the sound of footsteps running in the opposite direction. They weren’t alone. That’s when an unbelievable reality began to dawn on them.
It occurred to Officer Erwin in an instant — the tunnel was positioned to go underneath border control and connected with one Connecticut’s three major seaports. At the end of the 600-yard-long passage, they came to a ladder that led to a trap door in the ceiling.
Officer John Erwin signaled for silence as they braced themselves for a moment. Then, he kicked through the trapdoor.
After swiftly breaking through the trapdoor, Officer Erwin cautiously peered out. Above him, he saw rusty bed springs. They would have to climb out to investigate. But when they did, they couldn’t believe their eyes. They had ended up underneath a bed in a suburban home!
Then, Officer Erwin noticed the long rope next to the trapdoor’s entrance. But he didn’t have time to inspect it — someone was coming.
The officers heard footsteps echoing through the tunnel and saw the faint beam of a flashlight. They stood back and waited, and their man practically walked into them.
His eyes widened when he reached the top of the ladder and found himself surrounded by I.C.E. agents. He had a suitcase in his hand, which was promptly confiscated. He put his hands up, cornered. Allan confirmed that he is the fugitive they’re looking for. They had found Allan, but where was Jermaine?
Police suspected that back in 1986 Allan had fled Toronto with Jermaine and traveled to the United States with the two reportedly sharing an apartment in Connecticut since 2004.
They lead Allan through the tunnel and back to the KFC. When they stepped outside, the police heard a voice. “Dad?” Suddenly, a middle-aged man walked around the corner. A middle-aged man with big brown eyes. Just like Jermaine.
The father and son duo – unbeknownst to the son – lived a life of lies for decades and decades. After fleeing Canada, Allan had managed to acquire fake documents, residing in New York, North Carolina, and then settling in Connecticut.
When living in New Haven, Allan bought the KFC, which he used as a front for his real business, while Jermaine worked for the state. Little did Jermaine know, his father’s business and indeed his whole life had been a lie.
After putting two and two together, It was clear to officials that the reason for this brazen under-border tunnel was to enable Hailee Randolph DeSouza and his cohorts to smuggle contraband into the New Haven Harbour.
It was DeSouza who had purchased the old KFC — for which he had paid $390,000 in cash. With their man in custody, it was only after some digging that they became aware of DeSousa’s other warrant for arrest — for kidnapping.
All his life Jermaine had questions about his mother. His dad told him she passed away during childbirth, but he was pretty ambiguous about the details.
Jermaine remembers seeing his friends get picked up from school by their mothers. Jermaine never had that. And it wasn’t until he turned 33 that the truth about his mother would come to light.
Standing and weeping in court as his father’s lies and deceitfulness came to light, Jermaine sobbed into his tissue. How could his father do such a thing? His heart stops to hear that Allan would be facing charges for smuggling contraband but not for kidnapping. Instead, he would be extradited to Canada to face further charges.
As he steps out of court, Jermaine is lost for words. With thousands of questions running through his mind, a sudden realization hits him. His mother is in fact, alive.
Lyneth is speechless. She has just got off the phone with Ted. They’ve found Jermaine. Her baby boy. He’s alive. He’s safe. She had been waiting for this moment for 31 years.
Overwhelmed with emotion, Lyenth breaks down, tears falling from her face. She’s going to see her baby boy again.
So, Lyneth had finally received the news that she had been hoping and waiting for — for the last three decades. “Words can’t express what I felt,” she said at a press conference in 2018.
“The words, ‘Your son is alive; we’ve found him,’ that is breathtaking.” The overjoyed mother then boarded a plane to Connecticut. She couldn’t wait to reunite with her long-lost son.
Standing in the pickup area at Connecticut airport, Lyneth is about to be reunited with her son after 30 years. She can’t believe it. What will he look like?
Suddenly, a tall, dark figure appears, walking towards Lyneth. Instantly she recognizes the face and those big brown eyes. Her heart stops. It’s her son. It’s Jermaine.
Running towards each other with tears streaming down their faces, Lyneth and Jermaine crash into each other with a warm embrace. Both are crying and overwhelmed with emotion.
Squeezing each other tight, they both have so many questions. But for now, they just hug each other tight, refusing to ever let go again.
“I grabbed him and squeezed his head; I want to feel if he’s real,” she said through tears. “I touched him, and I said, ‘Oh my God, my baby.’”
Although Jermaine has declined to give any public interviews as yet, Lyneth mentioned that he made a touching comment when they met — he said that they shared the same eyes.
After Lyneth was reunited with Jermaine at last, the pair were able to spend some quality time together at last. Lyneth was eager to learn about Jermaine’s life and what had happened in the last 31 years.
Lyneth even bought ingredients to make Jermaine a home-cooked dinner of fried chicken – only to find out that he is a vegetarian. But Jermaine decided to make an exception. “He said, ‘You know what, Mommy? Cook the chicken. I’m gonna eat the chicken,’” Lyneth recalled.
For the time being, it is unclear if Lyneth will relocate to be closer to her long-lost son. However, the happy mother did tell reporters that she will do everything in her power to make sure they are never separated again.
Then, Lyneth went on to open up about the devastating actions that Allan had taken all those years ago.
“I just thought it was sad for him to have done what he did,” Lyneth confessed. “You never take a child from its parent – no matter what.”
The mother also coming to terms with the fact that her son had a whole other life before she came back into the picture. “I have to respect the fact that he was a child; he didn’t know anything,” she explained.
“So, what was given to him, he had no choice but to live with that,” Lyneth continued. “And so, if the name that he has right now, he would like to respect that, then I’m gonna stand with him.”
With that being said, however, Lyneth admitted that calling her son by his new name may always be difficult. “To me, my son has always been Jermaine, so yes, that sticks for me,” she explained.
During a news conference, Lyneth also took the time to give special thanks to all those people on the case — all those people who never gave up the search for her missing boy.
Lyneth made special mention of the MCSC and the authorities on both sides of the border. Furthermore, she hoped that her story might inspire other parents in her situation to never give up their faith.
“I am the proof that after 31 long years of suffering – 31 long years – one should never give up,” Lyneth explained. “But be patient, be strong, and believe that all things are possible and that anything can transpire.”
Meanwhile, John Durham, Connecticut’s U.S. Attorney, spoke about all of the investigators who had worked so long and hard to bring Jermaine home.
“After taking his son away from his son’s mother, this defendant is alleged to have lived a lie for the last 31 years in violation of numerous U.S. laws,” Durham said in an official statement in 2018.
“We thank the many law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and Canada that have investigated this matter, worked hard to apprehend this fugitive, and finally provided some answers to a mother who has suffered with her son’s absence for far too long.”
And, according to the experts, Jermaine’s disappearance is an exception to the rule in what is actually a surprisingly common crime.
“This is believed to be the longest case in North America – if possibly not the world – where an abducted child is reunited with a parent where they’re both in safe condition,” Banks explained.