Video: A dream come true

updated 3/3/2004 10:28:40 AM ET 2004-03-03T15:28:40

A woman who police believe snatched her friend’s newborn daughter in 1997 and then torched the family’s house to cover her tracks has surrendered to authorities.

Carolyn Correa, 42, of Willingboro, N.J., turned herself in Tuesday, said her attorney, Jeffrey Zucker. She faces charges of arson and kidnapping.

Suspicion fell on Correa after the biological mother of the now-6-year-old girl ran into the child at a party in January and instantly knew she was gazing at the face of her long-lost daughter.

To prove it, Luz Cuevas approached the girl, pretended there was gum in her hair and removed five strands. DNA tests confirmed the mother’s intuition: The girl was her only daughter, Delimar Vera, who everyone else believed had died only 10 days after she was born in 1997.

Cuevas, 31, said Correa was a family acquaintance who announced that she was pregnant during a visit to the new mother shortly after Delimar’s birth. She then abruptly ceased contact after the Dec. 15, 1997, blaze.

Fire officials believed the fire at Cuevas’ home was sparked by an extension cord. It was extinguished in 10 minutes but Delimar’s room was gutted, and investigators concluded that the infant’s body must have been consumed by the intense heat and flames.

Correa pleaded guilty to a November 1996 arson at a medical office in Hamilton Township, N.J., near Trenton, and was sentenced in August 1998 to five years probation and community service, according to court records. She set the fire to hide evidence that she had been stealing checks from the business, Hamilton police told the Philadelphia Inquirer for Wednesday’s editions.

Delimar was placed in foster care by the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services, spokesman Andy Williams said. It will be up to a judge to determine where the little girl should live.

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