New York — It was a dream come true.
After 23 years of praying and never giving up hope that he would see his first-born child again, Carl Tyson got his wish.
In August 1987, Tyson and his girlfriend at the time took their 19-day-old daughter, Carlina, to Harlem Hospital in New York City because she had a high fever.
The two left the hospital for a couple of hours to rest. When they returned, they were told that their baby was missing. No suspects were ever identified in the disappearance.
"I never had a doubt that I was going to see her," Tyson said from his home in New York City on Tuesday. "I knew she was going to come back. I just didn't know when. But she came back."
In January, he was reunited with Carlina White, now a 23-year-old mother herself, whom authorities say was kidnapped and raised by a Raleigh woman, Ann Pettway, 44, who now faces federal kidnapping charges.
"When I saw her, I was like, 'this has got to be a dream,'" Tyson said.
The reunion grabbed national headlines.
White had always thought she was at least adopted because Pettway could never provide her with a birth certificate.
While looking on the website of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, she saw a baby photo that she thought looked like hers.
She contacted the site, which put her in touch with her biological family. They exchanged photos and talked, and a DNA test confirmed their relationship.
It was like a dream, Carlina White told the New York Post in a January 20 article.
"I'm so happy. At the same time, it's a funny feeling because everything's brand new,” she said. “It's like being born again.”
Months after that celebrated day, Tyson says he feels that he's lost his daughter all over again.
The two talked on the phone and sent text messages to one another after the reunion, he says. Slowly though, she cut off communication with Tyson and the rest of her biological family, he says.
"She looked for us, and then, (she's) gone again," Tyson said. "She's got me so confused right now, because she's not opening up to anyone."
Through her attorney, White, who now lives in Atlanta with her 6-year-old daughter, declined to comment about the situation.
Tyson says he is not sure what happened. He wonders if the estrangement could be related to money.
He and White's mother established a trust fund for their daughter, but he says they had to dissolve it when she was 21 because she had not been found.
Another possibility, he says, is that she still feels loyalty to the family who raised her and that she is confused.
"Sometimes, people say she is stuck in between two families, but you can be stuck in between two families, but you can still love both families."
Whatever the reason, Tyson says he is heartbroken. He has a message for his daughter.
"Me and your mother have been missing you for 23 years," he said. "All we want is a little attention from you, some love."
And he says he hopes she will find him again.
"I want things to get better," he said. "I got a lot of hope that it's going to get better, that she'll come around."