Child Missing 4 Years Found After Computer Enhances Photo

POSTED: 1:30 pm EDT August 6, 2004

MOBILE, Ala. – A 6-year-old North Carolina boy missing for four years has
been found living in Mobile with his father, a discovery made with the
help of a tipster who had seen a computer-enhanced picture of the child
at a web site.

Nicolas Dipietro vanished from his home in Sanford, N.C., on July 27,
2000. Authorities said the child’s father, John Frederick Dipietro, took
him without permission.

The mother, Dana Reece, had been searching for him ever since, with the
help of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

On Thursday, the child was found in a trailer home in west Mobile.

An age-enhanced image of the boy on the missing children center’s Web
site prompted someone in Mobile to call police with suspicions about the
child’s identity, said Assistant District Attorney Steve Giardini. He
said the enhanced photo was “amazing” in its accuracy.

On the Web site, Nicolas’ age and other statistics are displayed, along
with the information that he “may be in the company of his non-custodial
father. They may have traveled out of state to meet an adult female.
Nicolas uses the nickname Nico. He has a birthmark on the back of his
neck and dimples on his cheeks.”

Giardini said the elder Dipietro, a restaurant worker, was away at his
job when police officers found Nicolas with Dipietro’s common-law wife
and removed him. He was taken to Mobile County’s Child Advocacy Center.

The prosecutor said Nicholas was being home-schooled. “You can imagine
why that would be,” he said.

After a night in a foster home the boy was to be reunited with his mother
on Friday. She was traveling to Mobile from North Carolina.

Deborah Brady, a caseworker with the missing children’s center in
Alexandria, Va., said the child will not recognize his mother right away.

“It’s very possible he won’t have any clear memories of her,” Brady said,
but a favorite toy, or a photo of them together will help.

“They will find a way,” Brady said. “She is his mother. And he is her
son.”

Prosecutors said they were unaware of any charges in the case.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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