The Story of the Man Who Saw Himself on a Missing Persons List Decades After Being Adopted

Steve Jr always knew he was adopted, but the details of his early childhood were a mystery. His curiosity grew as he entered adulthood, so he decided to take an ancestry test. This caused a domino effect and led him into a remarkable tale of self-discovery, during which he finally discovered the answers he’d been searching for his entire life.

Looking to Extend the Family

It was 1980 when United States Army officer Steve Carter, who was stationed in Oahu, Hawaii, and his wife, Pat, decided to adopt a child.

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There was no shortage of children looking for adoptive parents on the island, so the couple knew they would be able to find a child for whom they could provide a loving home.

A Mystery Child Catches Their Eye

When Steve and Pat arrived at the foster care home, they were immediately drawn to a three-and-a-half-year-old boy named Tenzin Amea. No one knew much about him, though.

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Tenzin’s background was very much a mystery – details of his past were unclear, and information regarding his parents was scarce. But that didn’t matter to Steve and Pat.

Love at First Sight

What they did know was that Tenzin’s father was said to be native Hawaiian. His mother, Jane, who was Caucasian, had been arrested in 1977 when he was just five months old.

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The couple declared that it was “love at first sight” and set about completing the necessary adoption paperwork for Tenzin, who had been in state care for three years after being separated from his parents at five months old.

Providing a Fresh Start

Deciding to give him a completely fresh start but honor the original name given by his biological parents, Steve and Pat renamed the child William Steven Tenzin Carter.

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The paperwork was finalized, and, on 23 September 1980, Tenzin was officially adopted and finally had a family to love and care for him.

“Came to Be Our Boy Day”

Although, as a result of his unstable start to life, the baby’s actual birthday was a mystery, the Carters decided to name 23 September as the “Came to Be Our Boy Day.”

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Each year, they celebrated the day that their son came into their lives, creating special memories and honoring the event. They have celebrated that day since 1980.

A New Life in the US

The family moved back to the US and the young boy, now known as Steve Jr., settled into his new life in the wealthy town of Medford Lakes in southern New Jersey.

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He led a privileged life and had a “normal” childhood, full of sports and play dates that every kid wants. But there was always something missing.

Curiosity Continues to Grow

As Steve Jr. grew older, he realized he was unable to disregard the curiosity he felt about his past and his biological parents.

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He began to wonder who they had been and what they had been like – and the fact that his birth certificate wasn’t created until a year after he was born confused him.

Determined to Unravel the Mystery

Something unfortunate, maybe even sinister, had to have happened – Steve Jr was convinced of it. He began to grow determined to uncover the mysteries of his childhood.

Source: People Magazine

It wasn’t easy, though – Steve Jr had to consider his adoptive parents, who had given him everything he ever needed. He didn’t want to hurt them or seem ungrateful and knew they’d been anxious about this happening.

Supportive Parents from the Start

“For several years after his adoption,” Steve Snr says, “Pat and I had a nagging fear that someone might pop up claiming to be his biological mother or father. When nobody did, our anxiety eventually passed.”

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However, they were always supportive of Steve Jr’s right to discover his past, belonging to an adoptee or birth parent clearinghouse (ALMA) that connects people who are looking for each other.

Taking Matters into His Own Hands

But Steve Jr told them to cancel their subscription when he was 18, deciding to take matters into his own hands and continue the search elsewhere.

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Like the great parents they are, Steve Snr and Pat fully supported their son in his quest for the truth. They vowed to stand by him every step of the way, no matter what was uncovered.

An Unlikely Biological Heritage

Steve Jr’s heritage was still a slight joke with everyone, even his family. “With his blonde hair, blue eyes, and a light complexion,” Steve Sr. said in an interview, “[he] does not strike one as being of Polynesian extraction.”


Something in Steve Jr’s gut was telling him his ancestry lay elsewhere, but he was unsure how he would prove it. Surely someone of Hawaiian descent couldn’t look so “Nordic”?

The Perfect Gift for Christmas

It seemed perfect, therefore, when he received a unique Christmas gift one year: a DNA test. Surely this would answer some questions he had about his heritage?


There was only one way to find out – he had to take the test. It was the only way to find out the scientific truth, and he wasn’t about to miss this opportunity.

Ancestry Test Reveals a Surprise

Steve Jr sent his DNA to the laboratory and waited with bated breath for the results to arrive. Everyone had their own ideas about what the results would reveal, but it was just speculation – Steve Jr was only interested in the science.

Source: CNN / YouTube

When the results came back, he was utterly shocked to discover he had Scandinavian ancestry – it felt like the test had provided more questions than answers.

The Start of the Domino Effect

This was the start of what can only be described as a domino effect that led Steve Jr. to discover the truth about his mysterious past.

Source: iMore

By pure chance, he recalled a story that he had heard previously, which gave him an idea of the best way to proceed.

The Story of Carlina White

In 2011, Steve Jr. had read a story about a woman named Carlina White, who was kidnapped as a baby from a Harlem hospital and raised in Connecticut.

Source: Carlina White / Facebook

She believed her kidnapper was her birth mother until she was 23 when she learned the truth only after researching missing persons. Incredibly, Carlina’s biological parents were just living 45 minutes away.

Seeing Similarities in the Story

Steve Jr. began to wonder if something similar had happened to him. Perhaps he, too, had been abducted and unknowingly had his identity changed.


It would certainly explain the mystery of why he looked like he did and why there was so little information available regarding his birth parents.

Searching Through the Missing Kids

It sounded far-fetched, but you never know – strange things happen all the time. And the fact that so little information was available regarding the first three years of Steve Jr’s life meant that anything was possible.


He decided it was worth doing an internet search to see if anything of any relevance could be found. After all, what did he have to lose?

Discovering the Chilling Portrait

Steve Jr. went onto, which is run by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. After searching through online records for hours, he made an incredible discovery.

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There was a portrait of a boy named Marx Panama Moriarty Barnes, and it looked exactly like Steve Jr. “I got chills,” he said. “I was like, ‘Holy crap, it’s me.’” But Steve needed confirmation.

Unraveling the Mystery with DNA Testing

Steve Jr contacted the authorities and decided the best course of action would be to get his DNA tested as soon as possible. It would, however, be eight long months before the results came back.

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Steve Jr was still in a state of shock and feeling mixed emotions. Eventually, the wait was over, and the results arrived.

One and the Same

Incredibly, Steve Jr and Marx were one and the same. Steve Jr couldn’t believe it – were there people out there who had been searching for him all this time?


His wife, Tracey, persuaded him to dig a little deeper. They couldn’t stop now. However, nothing could have prepared them for what they would uncover …

Discovering the Truth Behind the Past

Steve Jr’s story was traced all the way back to 1977. It starts with Vietnam veteran-turned-journalist Mark Barnes and his girlfriend, Charlotte Moriarty, who had a baby boy, Marx, at the time.

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Could this have really, in fact, been Steve Jr? Something awful must have happened to have split up such a seemingly happy family.

Leaving to Never Return

On 21 June 1977, on what seemed like a perfectly normal day, Mark was attending his plants in the garden of his home in Oahu.

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Charlotte, who was inside the house, decided to take Marx out for a walk, telling her boyfriend that she was planning on going to the grocery store.

The Free Spirit Wanders Once More

But Charlotte never returned. At first, Mark wasn’t too worried, as Charlotte – being what some called a “free spirit” – had been known to leave periodically in the past.

Source: Friends of the Missing Child Center – Hawaii

This behavior wasn’t particularly unusual, so Mark assured himself that she’d return with Marx soon, as she always did. If only he knew what was about to happen.

The Desperate Search Begins

Time continued to pass, and Mark grew concerned. Charlotte had never disappeared for so long before, and he began to worry about Marx’s well-being.

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After three weeks, Mark – by this time, frantic with worry – contacted the authorities and notified them of what had happened, and a large-scale search for the mother and son began.

Wandering Hawaii in Vain

For the next year, Mark searched the whole of Hawaii for his girlfriend and son, never giving up hope that his family would be reunited.

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But it wasn’t to be. Somehow, Marx had ended up as Steve Jr, living in a different country with adoptive parents. How could this have happened?

So Close Yet So Far

What Mark didn’t realize is, while he was searching far and wide for his family, both Charlotte and Marx were still in Oahu for a year after they went missing.

Source: Exploration Hawaii

They were, however, on the other side of the island, with Charlotte involving herself in petty crime to survive. But one day, she went too far, and her life unraveled.

Living a Life of Crime

Charlotte, taking Marx with her, broke into a property owned by a married couple on the other side of Oahu. On their return, the owners found the mother and child in their home.


The police were called, who came to remove Charlotte and Marx. This was to be the start of a downward spiral for the baby boy, who would have to be taken into care as a result of his mother’s arrest.

Making the Fatal Decision

When filling in forms during her arrest, Charlotte gave false names for herself and her son, using the aliases Jane and Tenzin Amea. She also gave Marx a fake date of birth.


Had she given the correct details, it is more than likely that Mark would have been located and reunited with his son. Charlotte’s decision to provide fake identities changed the narrative of everyone’s lives drastically.

All Hope is Gone

Consequently, Mark had little to no hope of locating his missing girlfriend and son, and heartbreakingly, the rest of his long search was in vain.


Marx was initially taken into temporary care, separated from both his mother and his father by just three years old – the implications of which could have been devastating.

The Free Spirit Disappears

Clearly, Charlotte was more than just a “free spirit” – unfortunately, she had severe mental issues. Eventually, the authorities took her to a psychiatric facility.

Source: Friends of the Missing Child Center – Hawaii (Artistic rendering of Charlotte)

She received treatment and was released within a relatively short amount of time. Unfortunately, she disappeared completely, never to be seen or heard of again. It is unlikely she ever used her real name again.

Heartbreakingly Close to Home

Meanwhile, tragically, Marx had been sent to an orphanage just 30 miles away from his original home. He was heartbreakingly close to where his father would soon return, alone.


Eventually, Mark was forced to give up the search for his girlfriend and son, believing they had somehow been killed or Charlotte had abducted Marx and purposefully covered her tracks.

Living Life in Blissful Ignorance

Resigned to his fate, Mark tried his best to return to what was left of his life, but he never completely gave up hope of seeing his son again.


Meanwhile, Marx had been adopted by the Carters and was living a happy and fulfilling life in New Jersey, oblivious that anyone was looking for him. It could have easily all ended there.

One More Piece to the Puzzle

But there was one more piece to the puzzle – Marx actually had a half-sister, Jennifer. Eight years his senior, Jennifer reignited the search for Marx in 2001, convincing the Hawaiian authorities to increase their efforts to locate her missing half-brother.


It was then that the portrait of what Marx would look like was created by a commissioned artist.

Connecting All the Dots

When Marx, now Steve Jr, saw this image through a stroke of luck, he immediately connected the dots and began to uncover the many mysteries of his past.


He was incredibly apprehensive, however, about meeting his long-lost family, using the term “terrified” when describing how he felt about the prospect. Was he ready to take this huge step?

Luck is Finally on Their Side

Firstly, he contacted his biological father, Mark, who was now living in California. “All I could say was, ‘Wow. Oh wow. Wow,’” Mark said in an interview.


After all this time, Mark had come to accept he’d never see his long-lost son again, but now luck was on his side. But it wasn’t just Steve Jr’s biological family this affected …

Mixed Emotions Felt All Round

Steve Jr’s adoptive parents, Steve Snr and Pat, cannot be underestimated in this story. When they discovered what had happened to their son before joining their family, they were devastated.


“On an emotional level, I felt like we’d taken someone else’s child,” Pat said. But they found solace in the fact that they’d done the best they could for a child that was in need.

A Different View on Life

Since then, though, Steve Snr and Pat have dealt with the news. In an interview on the TV chat show The View, Pat made it clear that she was feeling more optimistic about the situation.


“It’s taken a while for us to get used to the idea that we have to share him. But I’m sure it’s going to be wonderful,” she said.

Tying Up the Loose Ends

There are, however, still some loose ends in this story; mysteries surrounding Charlotte Moriarty that may never be uncovered. Her fate is still yet to be confirmed.

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Although Steve Jr and his biological father Mark have reunited, is it unclear whether he will reunite with the rest of his biological family. Only time will tell.

Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining

One thing is for sure: the whole experience has done wonders for Steve Jr and his half-sister Jennifer’s relationship, and the two are incredibly close.

Source: Trulia

Through all the tragedy and misfortune, it’s lovely that some lasting bonds have been forged and that relationships have blossomed.

A Message of Hope

One lesson to be taken from this story is that one should never give up hope. Devastatingly, there are millions of members of broken families around the world, desperately waiting for their own reunion story.


As long as it may take, and as unlikely as it may often seem, all people can do is keep believing that the course of life will allow them to find the answers they are searching for.