At The Age Of 30 This Man Discovered His True Identity

Family is one of the main factors that shape your identity. After all, your family is the one that instills the social skills and values that mold you into an adult. But what if you learned that your whole childhood was a lie?

That’s what happened to Steve Carter Jr. Steve was adopted when he was three years old. Knowing that he was adopted, he wanted to discover who his biological parents were. However, life sometimes takes its unexpected turns, and he ended up unveiling a very disturbing truth.

Starting A Family

United States Officer Steve Carter and his wife Pat were happily married and lived together in Oahu, Hawaii when they decided to become parents. After trying unsuccessfully for some time, they finally opted for adoption.

Photo: Courtesy of CBS News

Steve and Pat were immediately drawn to a three-year-old boy named Tenzin Amea. Tenzin lived in a foster care on the island. Nobody knew anything about his family history. If you check the image above, he’s the third one on the left. He looked like a young Jimi Hendrix, doesn’t he?

Love At First Sight

Tenzin was born on January 16th, 1977. Before being sent to Oahu’s foster home, he had been under the care of the state for a period of three years. As you can see, he had had a very tough childhood. But little did he know that he was about to be welcomed into a loving family.

Photo: Courtesy of Portal Curió

But for Steve and Pat, it was love at first sight. According to both of them, the minute they saw him for the first time, they had this strange inexplicable feeling that the boy was meant to be their son. They adopted him on September 23rd, 1980, as soon as they were able to file all of the dense adoption paperwork.

Unknown Family Background

However, Steve and Pat knew nearly nothing about their new son’s birth parents. As far as they were told, Tenzin’s father was said to be a native Hawaiian, but not much more than this was known. As regards his mother, it was believed that she had been arrested in 1977, when Tenzin was just five months old.

Photo: Courtesy of Boredom Therapy

Very little was known about Tizian’s early childhood. But one thing was for sure: life hadn’t made things easy for him. When Steve and Pat adopted him and welcomed him to his new home, they decided to rename him. Now, he was William Steven Tenzin Carter. He must have had a hard time remembering so many names at the age of four!

Brand New Childhood

Fortunately, people didn’t call him by all three of his names. Soon enough, Tenzin started going by the name Steve Jr. He settled into a new home and into a new life with his adoptive parents. Luckily for Tenzin, his life transformed radically: he went from living in a state foster home with dozens of other kids to living in the wealthy town of Medford Lakes, located in Southern New Jersey.

Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Therefore, now Tenzin had the sort of “normal” childhood that many kids would be envious of. He had loving parents, lived in a decent home, and wasn’t deprived of any of his basic needs. He was sent by his family to participate in local sports and made plenty of friends. What else could he wish for?

Growing Into Adulthood

As years went by, Steve Jr. grew into adulthood, but he was never able to stop thinking about who his biological parents really were. But he didn’t even know how to begin his quest for the truth. After all, his adoptive parents didn’t have a clue regarding who his birth parents had been. Take a look at the picture below: the guy below and in the middle is already grown-up Steve Jr… or Tenzin! However, you rather call him.

Photo: Courtesy of Brain Sharper

Knowing that his adoptive parents couldn’t help him find the truth was something that frustrated Steve Jr. His family, in fact, even took his heritage as a joke.

With his blonde hair, blue eyes, and light complexion, [he]does not strike one as being of Polynesian extraction“, Steve Sr. said in an interview, in reference to his birth father’s native Polynesian heritage.

DNA Test

Already an adult, on an ordinary Christmas night, Steve Jr. received a unique gift. They gave him nothing less than a DNA testing kit. This meant that he had the opportunity of unlocking a door to the mystery of his true ancestry. However, the results were absolutely unexpected.

Photo: Courtesy of CNN

According to the results of the DNA test, he had Scandinavian ancestry. How could that be possible, if his birthfather was allegedly Polynesian? Paradoxically, these results triggered Steve Jr. far more questions than answers. So his journey towards discovering his own identity had only just begun.

An Inspiration

Steve Jr. was admirably brave in order to find the courage to perform the DNA test. However, it wasn’t the first time he was struck by the idea of DNA testing. In 2011, he had read a story about a woman named Carlina White, the girl on the left in the picture below. Let’s learn about the story which inspired Steve Jr. Not only will it give you the goosebumps, but it also presents several similarities to the way in which Steve Jr’s life unfolds.

Photo: Courtesy of Carlina White / Facebook

Carlina was only 19 days old when her parents, Joy White and Carl Tyson, took her to a hospital in Harlem, New York. Apparently, she had swallowed plenty of fluid during her delivery, which caused her an infection. As a result, she had a rocketing fever. Once at the hospital, a woman dressed as a nurse started comforting Carlina’s parents. However, it turns out that she was not a hospital employee. To everyone’s disbelief, the baby disappeared early the following morning. What on earth could have happened?

Her Quest For Truth

Carlina White was raised as Nejdra “Netty” Nance by Annugetta “Ann” Pettway in Connecticut, just at a 45-mile distance from where her birth parents had lived. Below is one of the few documented pictures of her as a little child with Pettway. Of course, little did she know that she had been the first baby to be kidnapped from a New York hospital, nor that her “mother” Pettway was actually her kidnapper. However, once a teenager, she began to suspect whether Pettway was indeed her birthmother, mainly because she always refused to show her her birth certificate.

Photo: Courtesy of Splash News / ABC

Eventually, after her insistence, Pettway ended up recognizing she was not her birth mother. This led young White to resort to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for help. There she found the pictures of a baby named Carlina, who had apparently been kidnapped. She realized that the baby resembled infant photos of herself as Nejdra. Just like Steve Jr., she decided to perform a DNA test in order to discover her true identity. You will be awestruck by the results.

White’s True Identity

White called the Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s hotline, and with the workers’ aid, she was able to contact her birth family. The following DNA testings confirmed in January 2011 that she was, in fact, the missing Carlina White, obviously proving that the woman who had raised her had actually been her kidnapper.

Photo: Courtesy of Images Nesny

From one day to another, Carlina’s story became the talk of the town. Of course, it couldn’t be less: it happened to be the longest known gap in a non-parental abduction where the victim is reunited with the family in the entire US history. In the picture above, we can see Carlina White reunited with her birth parents. But not only was this story a shock to the entire world. It was also a source of inspiration to Steve Jr., who began wondering if Carlina’s case bore any resemblance to his own.

Another Inspiration

But Carlina’s story wasn’t the only one that inspired Steve Jr. Another famous case was that of Saroo Brierley, whose story was later depicted in the 2015 film Lion. Saroo was born in India, in a small rural town in the province of Madhya Pradesh. He was raised by a single mother and lived in poverty. At a very young age, he was forced to begin begging at the railway stations for food and money, together with his older brothers Guddu and Kallu.

Photo: Courtesy of Boothbay Register

Every now and then, his brother Guddu worked sweeping the floors of train carriages. One day, Guddu told five-year-old Saroo that he was planning on going for an adventure: he wanted to take a train to the city of Burhanpur, 70 kilometers away. Saroo asked his older brother if he could join him, and he agreed. One night, they agreed at meeting at the train station and taking the train together. But since Guddu never showed up, Saroo took the train by himself. But he was so tired, that when the train reached Burhanpur he was fast asleep. When he woke up, he was in Calcutta, nearly 1,500 km from his hometown.

Finding A New Family

Saroo ended up living in the streets Calcutta. Eventually, he met a man who took him to a police station and reported that he could be a lost child. The police took Saroo to a government center for abandoned children, and he was later moved to the Indian Society for Sponsorship and Adoption. A couple of months later, he was adopted by the Brierley family of Hobart, Australia.

Photo: Courtesy of Arkansas Times

Moving to Australia was a great radical change for him since it contrasted sharply to his past way of life. Firstly, after having lived under conditions of extreme poverty, he now lived in an enormous house in a rather wealthy family. He began going to school, something that he had never experienced before. He also had to learn a whole new language; as a matter of fact, in a matter of years, he forgot all his Hindi. But once an adult, when he realized he was gradually forgetting most of the memories he kept of his family, he became deeply troubled.

Tracking Down His Origins

Saroo felt the sudden need of knowing where he was from and who his family was. He spent many months using the satellite images on Google Earth, following different railway lines that radiated out from the Calcutta train station. He relied on his vague memories of the main features around the Burhanpur railway station, which was the one 70 km away from his hometown. He didn’t even remember that the station’s name was Burhanpur, but he recalled that it began with the letter B.

Photo: Courtesy of People

But on a night of 2011, after hundreds of hours of searching, he identified a small railway station that vaguely matched his childhood memories of the station near his hometown. The name of this station began with a B: it was called Burhanpur. He followed the satellite images of the railway line north and found a town called Khandwa. The name didn’t ring a bell, but the town had features that sounded familiar, such as a fountain near the train tracks where he used to play.

Trip To India

Saroo was pretty sure he had discovered his hometown. But his quest for truth had just begun. He contacted a Facebook group based in Khandwa. He was pretty convinced it was his hometown. Thus, in 2012, Saroo traveled to Khandwa. When he arrived, he walked around the town, asking residents if they knew any family that had lost their son 25 years ago.

Photo: Courtesy of Dubai Week

Saroo showed photographs of himself as a child in Hobart to every person who agreed to listen to him. Communication was pretty difficult though: naturally, people barely spoke any English. But despite the language barrier, local people soon led him to his mother and sister. After 25 years, he was reunited with his family. And all thanks to two main things: his admirable perseverance, and the incredible advances of modern-day technology.

Following Their Footsteps

Steve Jr. found inspiration in Carlina’s and Saroo’s stories. On the one hand, he couldn’t stop wondering whether Carlina’s story bore any resemblance to his own past. But now, at least he was sure of one thing: the results of the DNA tests which had proved his Scandinavian heritage weren’t enough. On the other hand, Saroo’s story showed him that technology could be the means of finding his true identity. So following both of their steps, he decided to search on the webpage, to see if he could find any clue there.

Photo: Courtesy of CNN / Youtube

It’s definitely worth mentioning that the Missing Kids webpage is actually run by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the same institution to which Carlina had turned to for help. After hunting through records of the mentioned webpage, Steve Jr. made a startling discovery. Keep on reading to know what it was!

A Spine-Chilling Sketch

Upon the webpage’s records, Steve Jr. came across a list of names of missing children. Amongst the list was a boy named “Marx Panama Moriarty”, who had been missing since July 1977. He also found an age procession sketch that showed how the missing boy could have looked like during his teens.

Photo: Courtesy of CNN

When Steve Jr. saw the picture, he just couldn’t believe it. The resemblance between the sketch and his pictures as a teenager was uncanny. But much yet had to be done. His journey for truth was just beginning to unfold.

“I got chills. I was like, holy crap, that’s me“, Steve Jr. said in an interview.

Another DNA Test

After seeing himself mirrored in the sketch, Steve Jr. got in touch with the appropriate state authorities as soon as he could, in order to perform another DNA test. He was anxious to know if this little boy named Marx was actually him.

Photo: Courtesy of CNN / Youtube

Eight months after performing his second DNA test, Steve learned that he and “Marx” were actually the same person. Steve Jr’s wife Tracy – the woman shown in the picture above – encouraged him to dig in even further. There was more truth waiting to be unmasked. So don’t stop reading!

Out For A Walk

Steve continued with his research. And he had his reward, for he made further discoveries. He learned that on June 21, 1977, Vietnam War veteran and journalist Mark Barnes was gardening outside his home in Hau’ula, on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, when something unexpected happened.

Photo: Courtesy of Boredom Therapy

His girlfriend, an artist named Charlotte Moriarty, said she wanted to take their six-year-old son Marx on a walk through the neighborhood. There was nothing wrong with it, so why would Mark say no to that? But little did Mark know what was going to happen next.

A Child Gone Missing

Charlotte, who was known for being somewhat of a free spirit, never came back. At first, Marx guessed that she had decided to pay a visit to her mother, or maybe to one of her friends. But when he woke up the following morning and they were both still missing, he began to feel deeply troubled.

Photo: Courtesy of Portal Curió

After three weeks had passed, Mark finally decided to call the local authorities and report his son and girlfriend missing. However, the police failed in finding any sort of traces of their whereabouts. How could the two of them have suddenly disappeared, and in such a small island?

The Never-Ending Search

Mark was just devastated. The two most important people in his life had inexplicably vanished. But he was not willing to give up. He spent over a year searching for his missing partner and son not only on the island of Oahu, but all over Hawaii. Below you can see a photo of his son as a baby.

Photo: Courtesy of

Of course, he didn’t want to lose hopes. But at the same time, he simply had no way of knowing whether his son was alive or not, or whether he was living a different life in another part of the world. But all of his suspicions were far from the truth. Do you want to know what happened? Then keep on reading, because we’re nearly reaching the end!

Far Away From Home

Even though Mark was hopeful his son and girlfriend would come back, there were days in which he feared the worst of the outcomes. However, the truth is that when Charlotte and Marx went on for their walk, they didn’t simply stroll around the nearby streets. They actually went quite far off.

Photo: Courtesy of Carissagalardo

It turns out that Charlotte Moriarty and her son went all the way to the opposite end of Oahu Island. As a matter of fact, they went so far that she got lost and wasn’t sure of the way back. Luckily a resident saw them loitering, and therefore called the police.

Fake Identities

After a little while, the police officers showed up. Charlotte had the chance of heading back home and reuniting with her husband. However, she decided to make up fake names for herself and her son: Jane Amea for herself, and Tenzin Amea for her son. She even came up with a new birthday for the little boy.

Photo: Courtesy of Boredom Therapy

The police had no reason for not believing her. Therefore, when Mark reported his girlfriend and son missing nearly three weeks later, the police couldn’t make any connection. There wasn’t any record of people with those names being found.

A Boy In An Orphanage

Charlotte was soon taken to a psychiatric hospital. As to the boy once known as “Marx”, he was sadly put into the care of the state, and eventually sent to a foster home. Obviously, Mark had no idea that his son was in an orphanage just 30 miles away from his house. Nor that he would be adopted by a wealthy Australian family shortly after.

Photo: Courtesy of Boredom Therapy

But things got worse. Charlotte soon went missing, after checking herself out from the hospital. Local authorities lost track of her and couldn’t get her back. So Mark lost his way of retrieving the boy from the orphanage.

Mark Finds Some Help

As any parent may imagine, Steve Jr. was desperate. But luckily, he wasn’t the only one who felt upset about the way things had unfolded. His biological half-sister Jennifer, who was eight years older than him, was also thirsty for justice, and thus decided to give him a hand.

Photo: Courtesy of Boredom Therapy

After doing some lobbying, Jennifer convinced Hawaiian officials to reopen the case in 2001. In fact, it is thanks to Jennifer’s insistence that they commissioned the sketch of Mark as a teenager. So if it weren’t for her, adult Steve Jr. wouldn’t have found out anything about his true past. It’s lucky that Jennifer showed up in the story!

The Truth Unfolds

Let’s go back to Steve Jr’s journey to discover his true identity. To everyone’s surprise, after having discovered the truth to his past, he was unwilling to reunite with his long-lost family. It was just too much for him.

Photo: Courtesy of Boredom Therapy

However, after a few months passed, he thought things through and changed his mind. He gave Jennifer a call and was, fortunately, able to reach her. Thanks to Jennifer, he was able to speak to his biological father by phone. It turns out that he no longer lived in Hawaii, but had moved to California. The photo shows an adult Steve Jr., narrating his unbelievable story on a live interview.

Facing The Truth

Steve Jr. wasn’t the only one who had difficulties coming to terms with his new identity. As one can imagine, for his adoptive parents, the news wasn’t easy to hear either. To a certain level, they even felt guilty: all these years, a heartbroken parent had been grieving for his lost son.

Photo: Courtesy of Boredom Therpay

But eventually, after some time, Steve Jr’s adoptive parents finally accepted the strange circumstances of the boy they had raised, and the way events had unfolded.

“On an emotional level, I felt like we’d taken someone else’s child”, Pat confessed in one of her interviews”.

An Inspiring Story

Steve’s life is truly one of a kind. To be honest, his family history has been far from ideal, but after all the suffering that he and his father went through, it’s happy to hear that they were able to find some closure. Even if it took more than three decades for the truth to unravel!

Photo: Courtesy of Ice Pop

So in a certain way, Steve Jr. was lucky. He must be very grateful for the fact that he managed to discover the truth behind the circumstances of his birth and to discover his own identity and family roots. Hopefully, this story will encourage thousands of other people to do the same.

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  • About Author

    Hernán Tamargo

    Teacher. Political Scientist. Writer. Feminist... and much more!

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