A Los Angeles court interpreter was reunited for the holidays with her 13-year-old daughter, eight years after the girl was allegedly kidnaped by her father from the woman’s Burbank home.
“I have not celebrated Christmas since she left,” Rosemary Levi said, breaking into tears as she recounted the loss of her daughter, Monica Judith Bonilla. “I have not celebrated Mother’s Day since she left.”
Monica was 5 when her father, Guillermo Bonilla, allegedly took her from Levi’s Burbank residence on Sept. 22, 1982.
They were reunited Monday after a television viewer alerted authorities that he had seen a picture of a kidnaped girl on the program “America’s Most Wanted” whom he believed to be Monica.
He was mistaken. The report was about another girl resembling Monica. But the tip led authorities to the girl and her father on Point Roberts, a small island near the U.S.-Canadian border in Washington state, the Los Angeles district attorney’s office said.
Monica had been given another name and was told her mother was dead.
Bonilla, 43, was being held in Bellingham, Wash., awaiting extradition and arraignment Wednesday in Los Angeles on a charge of parental child abduction, the district attorney’s office said.
Since the kidnaping, Levi remarried and had a son, now 6.
She said she has spent $20,000 hiring detectives to try to find her daughter.
“I’m the happiest mother in the world,” Levi said Monday.
“God has sent back my daughter. She was found by accident, but I don’t believe in accidents,” she added.
Levi has moved from Burbank to “somewhere in the Los Angeles area,” the district attorney’s office said, declining to reveal a more specific location for the sake of security.
“I love my family,” Monica told a news conference, after meeting her half brother.
“I’ve got a little brother. He’s sweet. I was happy before, and I am still happy.”
Asked what she wanted for Christmas, Monica said, “I’d like an M.C. Hammer tape.” Then, hugging her mother and half brother, she said, “And I already got these guys.”