One day, Steven Carter Jr. was prompted to delve a little deeper into his past. He’d had a strange feeling all his life that there were details missing, and now, he was finally about to uncover the answers. Piece by piece, his life story fell into place, and then he made the earth-shattering discovery about himself that was never supposed to be brought to light.
He studied the drawing on the missing persons list intently, and a strange feeling started to wash over him. It was as if he was looking in a mirror …the blue eyes, the ash blonde hair. It was his own face, and it was all just too uncanny. This seemingly innocent picture meant that his entire life had been a lie, but where did that leave him?
Nausea crept up from the bottom of his stomach as he realized the truth: He didn’t know who he was anymore.
A Feeling in His Gut
Steven Carter Jr. had always had an uneasy feeling that he couldn’t shake. There were areas of his life where things didn’t quite fit into place — entire stretches of his life were missing. He knew that his life had started in the Hawaiian Islands and that his name had been Tenzin Amea, born on January 16, 1977.
Then he had stumbled upon something that had changed everything.
On the News
It was lunchtime at Steven’s ordinary work day. He worked in medical software sales and decided to pass the time by lazily browsing the latest news stories on his phone. But today, something fateful caught his eye.
This breaking news story from CNN was about to set Steven on a path from which there would be no return.
Steven started to read the story and his interest was immediately piqued, although he didn’t know why. The news broadcast was about a woman named Carlina White, who had been reported as missing from a hospital in New York almost immediately after she was born.
There had finally been a breakthrough — and most surprisingly, it was Carlina herself who had solved her own case.
Carlina White had been reported missing under suspicious circumstances when she was just 19 days old. She had been running a fever, and subsequently taken to the hospital. Reports stated that a mysterious woman had disguised herself as a nurse and had abducted her.
Carlina had no idea that she was even on the missing persons’ list, and had assumed that her kidnapper was her own mother. Her story was the gamechanger for Steven.
Steven was under the impression that he had been given up when he was just an infant and was then given into the care of the state. He was placed into an orphanage on the island of Oahu and then into foster care when he was a few months old. Although Steven’s memories of that trying period in his life were vague, he did remember that he longed for a family of his own.
One day, his dream came true.
The year was 1980 when Steve Carter Sr., an United States Army Officer, was stationed with his wife Pat in Hawaii when they visited the local orphanage. They met three-year-old Tenzin and instantly fell in love with him. The happy couple made the adoption official on September 23, 1980, and they gave him his father’s name.
The staff at the orphanage explained that Tenzin was half native Hawaiian, but there were some details that just didn’t add up.
Pat and Steve thought nothing of Tenzin’s blue eyes, blonde hair and pale complexion at the time. They were determined to give the little boy the best life they possibly could. They renamed him William Steven Tenzin Carter, after his adoptive father, and it seemed as though his life improved dramatically. The family had left Hawaii and had settled in an affluent area in New Jersey called Medford Lakes.
From then on, Steven lived a charmed life with his new parents and forgot about his past, but he never dreamed that it would come back to haunt him.
The Carters thought it was extremely important to be open about Steven’s life before he had been adopted. They even named the day they adopted him “Came To Be Our Boy Day,” and celebrated the anniversary every year. But Steven was growing fast, and he started to ask questions that they simply didn’t know the answers to. All the information they had was that Steven’s biological father had been Hawaiian and the dates on his birth certificate. Even then, it was very little to go on, especially as the birth certificate had bizarrely only been issued a month after he was born.
But on one particular day, everything changed.
The First Piece of the Puzzle
Steven’s curiosity about his past only grew as the years went by. He completed his studies at Penn University, and now — in his thirties — he just couldn’t shake the strange feeling he had always felt. It gnawed at him like an itch he couldn’t scratch. Little did he know, he was about to finally uncover the truth that shook an entire nation to the core.
And it all started with a simple home DNA test.
A Growing Suspicion
Steven had received the seemingly innocuous home DNA test as a gift from his wife, and now finally, he would start to uncover the answers he had been looking for. The results were the first piece of the puzzle. His DNA revealed that he had Scandinavian heritage — which made sense given his fair complexion. But he was startled to discover that there was no trace of his supposed Hawaiian ancestry, and his suspicions that something was amiss only grew.
Then, he stumbled across the Carlina White story in his news feed.
A Quick Search
Steven was growing more intrigued by the second, and then he made the decision that would turn his life upside down. He impulsively looked up the database of missing persons in a Google search, and his fingers shook as he entered the birth date that he had believed was his for his whole life. When nothing came up, he narrowed the search parameters down to missing persons in Hawaii.
Then, he searched for his birth name and found something so unexpected he almost fell off his office chair.
A Deeper Mystery
The name Tenzin Amea yielded no results, but there was another name accompanied by a picture. Marx Panama Moriarty-Barnes had been reported missing in July 1977.
An uncontrollable chill went up Steven’s spine as he studied the artist’s rendition of what the missing boy would look like now, 30 long years later.
The picture was positively eerie. It was a composite artist’s rendition, and it was like looking straight into a mirror. At first, Steven refused to believe the truth. He sent the picture to everyone he knew — friends and family — and he was shattered by their replies. They were all astounded by the resemblance. It couldn’t just be a coincidence, could it? Steven’s wife, Tracy, insisted that he dug deeper into the mystery.
But when all was said and done, did Steven really want to know the truth?
Steven was torn apart by all the emotions that weighed heavily on his heart. He wrestled with the thought of just forgetting what he had seen. Maybe he could continue to live a lie, blanketed blissfully in his ignorance. His life could go on as it always had. But his curiosity won out in the end, it niggled in the back of his mind.
He had to make a decision, and he did. he had to know. He picked up his phone and dialed.
The chances of solving a missing person case that had been unresolved for over three decades were incredibly slim, so understandably the officers at the Honolulu Police Department were skeptical — at first. They demanded more evidence, so Steven underwent further DNA testing to reveal his true identity.
He had to wait 8 months for the results to come in, and when they did the case was blown wide open.
Vietnam war veteran Mark Barnes was in Hawaii with his girlfriend Charlotte Moriarty on June 21, 1977. The Californian native was working as a journalist in the tropical paradise town of Hau’ula.
The young couple had a six-month-old baby boy named Marx, and life seemed to be perfect.
Without A Trace
On a warm and beautiful day, Charlotte approached Mark while he was gardening in the yard and told him that she was going for a stroll with Marx. Mark thought nothing of it at the time, never imagining that his girlfriend and beloved son were about to disappear into thin air.
Minutes became hours, and the hours became days, but still, Charlotte had not returned. Mark was devastated. He searched for his family for days, but never found them. What had happened to the young woman and boy?
Three weeks went by, and Mark decided to involve the local police. He reported Charlotte and Marx as missing, but there wasn’t a single lead. It was as though the pair had vanished from this world. Mark continued to search for two whole years, and the experience left him broken. He waited for the news — any news — but it never came.
Wondering what could have happened that day haunted him for the rest of his life.
It was only discovered much later that Charlotte had traveled all the way to the other end of the island when she was caught trespassing. She lied about her true identity when the police interrogated her and she fabricated a name: Jane Amea. Charlotte said that her young son’s name was Tenzin Amea, and lied about his birth date.
She also said that his father had been a native Hawaiian, but her son wasn’t allowed to stay with her for long.
A Twist of Fate
Soon after, Charlotte was taken to a psychiatric ward for evaluation and Tenzin was placed in the care of an orphanage after being surrendered to the state. Mark, his heartbroken father, had no idea that his son had been in the orphanage, just 30 miles away. Charlotte was finally released from psychiatric care, but she disappeared without a trace.
But there was still one player in this mystery who never forgot and never gave up.
Unbeknown to Steven, he had a half-sister who refused to give up the search for her missing brother. She was just eight years old when he had disappeared and was living with her biological father in New Mexico. Jennifer was distraught when she heard the terrible news, and the trauma stayed with her all her life. She never stopped looking for her mother Charlotte and her baby brother Tenzin.
In 2001 she renewed her efforts with the police department, and they finally paid off.
Setting Events in Motion
Jennifer decided to make the trip to Hawaii to reopen the case of her missing brother at the local police department. With the help of a portrait artist, a drawing of young Steven was digitally enhanced and aged to accurately depict what he would look like now — 30 years later. It was this picture that Steven had stumbled upon during his search on the missing persons database ten years later!
Then, the DNA tests from the Honolulu Police Department made the connection.
After three decades of investigation, the case had finally been solved. And the most surprising detail of all? It was solved by its own subject, Steven Carter Jr. He had no inkling that he had actually been born Marx Panama Barnes-Moriarty, or that he had been considered a missing person for his entire life. The new information shook him to his core.
He had solved one of the longest missing persons cases in American history, but there was still one more thing he had to do.
After the excitement and flurry in the media finally started to die down, Steven decided that he was finally ready to make contact with his biological family. First, he called his half-sister, Jennifer. She was overwhelmed and shaken to hear that her little brother was alive and well and living in Philadelphia. She finally had closure.
The next step was for Steven to reach out to his father, Mark.
Mark finally got the call he had been waiting for all those years, and when Steven explained what had happened, he was at a complete loss for words. All he could stutter was “wow,” over and over again. But then he asked Steven a question: Where was Charlotte? But Steven had no answer. Unfortunately, she was never seen or heard from again after she left the psychiatric hospital in Hawaii.
Her whereabouts remain a mystery to this day.