During a career in law enforcement, you come across more faces and names than you can remember. At a certain point, it’s easy to see victims and suspects more as pieces of information than as human beings. Agent Troy Sowers knew that better than anybody.
He’d cracked so many cases over the years that only the most jarring figures stayed with him as he approached retirement age. But as he began his last day on the job, an unexpected person stepped forward and made Troy see his life’s work in a whole new light.
When Troy Sowers entered the front doors of the FBI’s Knoxville Field Office, he had no idea it would be the most shocking day of his career. In his mind, he was there for little more than a cakewalk.
That summer day in 2019 would be Troy’s last on the force before he retired. Taking a page out of Special Agent Dale Cooper’s book, all Troy asked for was some coffee and donuts at his party.
However, Troy would be getting much more than he bargained for. He wasn’t too surprised when a number of colleagues past and present arrived at the gathering to wish him well. However, he also spotted someone for the first time in 22 years.
Back in 1997, Troy was just a rookie on the FBI. He’d barely seen any real action while stationed in Tacoma, Washington, but he knew that would change the instant he noticed a panicked family speaking with some of his fellow agents.
Tacoma News Tribune
The Rembert family just welcomed a new son, Stewart, into the world. With the trials of pregnancy behind them, they looked forward to this next chapter for their family — until someone ripped that page right out of the book.
Tacoma News Tribune
Two days after the delivery, the overjoyed parents took a few hours to rest while doctors carried out routine tests on Stewart. However, St. Clare Hospital had an unexpected guest that day.
Flickr / Patricks Mercy
Hard as it was to believe, a disturbed woman disguised herself as a doctor and entered the maternity ward. There, she grabbed newborn Stewart Rembert, stuffed him in a bag, and walked out the front door.
NBC Los Angeles
Authorities didn’t catch on to her plan until she was long gone, but that didn’t stop them from launching a widespread search effort. To get that baby back, they would send out every man they had, even if he was just a rookie.
Lexington Herald Leader
That’s how Troy ended up right in the middle of the investigation. For 19 grueling hours, he and his colleagues hit dead end after dead end. They knew the window for finding Stewart was nearing a close.
Fortunately, police caught a big break. They apprehended the kidnapper, though she was alone and gave no indication of where she was keeping Stewart. Determined to set things right, Troy sat down with the furious woman.
Something about Troy got the kidnapper to talk. She reluctantly gave the rookie agent an address in town, with instructions to check behind said spot. Speeding off to the rescue, Troy found himself in the alley on the backside of a strip mall restaurant.
There, in a cardboard box next to the dumpster, Troy found baby Stewart. God knows how much longer he could’ve lasted out in the open, but thanks to the fresh-faced agent, he’d be safe.
The New York Times
It was a textbook happy ending from there. The Remberts were reunited with their son and presumably went on to live happy lives. Troy proved himself as a skilled agent and enjoyed an illustrious career over the next 22 years.
Troy never forgot that case. Still, he couldn’t help but feel confused when he showed up at his retirement party and received a handshake from a young man in a military uniform. The agent was sure he had never seen his face in his life.
Knoxville News Sentinel
Sherri Onks, a longtime comrade of Troy’s, noticed his bewilderment and pulled him aside. She said she didn’t expect him to recognize this young man, but asked him to think back to that kidnapping case decades earlier.
That’s when it hit Troy. This impressive figure standing before him was Stewart all grown up! The FBI invited him to the party as a surprise. As it turned out, he’d had quite the interesting path since he and Troy parted ways.
Rembert explained that he couldn’t pass up the chance to meet his hero. “I was just really ecstatic, that they would come to me 22 years later,” he said. Ever since he learned of his kidnapping, he looked up to the FBI.
He, too, decided to follow a life of service, which brought him to the Marines. Despite the challenges of boot camp and the military lifestyle, Stewart became a corporal. He thanked Troy for making all that possible.
YouTube / Armed Forces Archives
The two men embraced, creating the perfect bookend to Agent Sowers’ FBI career. It wasn’t everyday Troy got to see the fruits of his hard work, but Stewart was living proof that it was all worth it.
After the party, Troy shipped off to retirement-land while Stewart returned to the Marines. However, both knew they would never be quite the same. An emotional reunion like that always left a mark. And meetings like that had only happened before a couple times in history.
In 1989, officer Michael Buelna cruised into one of the rougher neighborhoods of Santa Ana, California. He was performing a routine scan of the area after a stabbing, but the humdrum case took a turn when locals waved him towards an alley.
Michael didn’t see anything out of the ordinary at first, but he picked up on “a sound of a very low meow, like a cat or something.” He followed the noise to its source, between a dumpster and a wall. Michael could hardly believe his eyes.
It was a wailing infant, lying face down and exposed on the asphalt. To his horror, Michael noticed the umbilical cord was still attached. Thinking quickly, Michael radioed for immediate medical assistance.
The discovery shook Michael to the extent that he wasn’t willing to simply hand over the baby to the EMTs. Instead, he rode in the ambulance while a police escort guided them to the hospital as quickly as possible.
Fortunately, Michael acted in the nick of time. Although the newborn was suffering from hypothermia, the medical team expected him to make a full recovery. But there were still unanswered questions.
A nurse turned to Michael and mentioned the baby, only a few hours old, needed a name. After conferring, they settled on Adam. It was somehow appropriate for this miracle infant that seemingly popped up out of nowhere.
NBC Los Angeles
Michael and Adam shared a tender moment together that night in the hospital, but the police officer soon had to head out and resume his duties. So what would happen to Baby Adam?
Even though the local news publicized the incredible baby rescue, authorities were unable to locate a responsible family member to raise Adam. Like so many other abandoned children, he was put up for adoption.
Before too long, however, the infant’s luck turned around. Elizabeth Barton and Daniel Fernandez — top candidates among couples looking to adopt — took him in as part of their family. Once they brought him home, they bestowed him with a new name: Robin Barton.
Although Robin spent the first few hours of his existence scared and alone, Elizabeth and Daniel made sure he never felt abandoned again. Looking back, Robin agreed that some higher power had blessed him with a great family.
Through all his blissful childhood years, Robin did not have the faintest idea about his miraculous rescue. Elizabeth and Daniel kept his origins a secret so Robin could be a normal kid. But as he got older, he started asking questions.
Facebook / Robin Barton
Once Robin reached maturity, Elizabeth understood it was time to share the whole story with him. She told him everything about the adoption and the brave police officer who saved him, even though she feared this revelation would shatter their family.
But Robin didn’t show any resentment or anger. He was nothing but grateful that Daniel and Elizabeth gave him such a wonderful family, though he proposed one interesting idea. Robin wanted to meet the policeman who found him in the alley.
Meanwhile, Michael Buelna served with the Santa Ana police until he stepped down in his 50s. Michael enjoyed his retirement, though his thoughts often turned back to that infant he discovered years ago. One day in 2015, a call came in from a member of his old force.
The officer asked if Michael remembered Adam. Of course, he did. But what the retired officer didn’t see coming was the invitation to meet with Adam — now Robin — for the first time in 25 years. How could he say no?
When the two men first came face-to-face, they didn’t know quite what to say. There was nothing that could be said. They just embraced. Then, Michael dropped a bombshell.
Michael explained why he felt so motivated to ensure that Robin would survive: it turns out that Michael’s own parents left him at a young age! Based on his own hardships, he couldn’t bear to see another child grow up without a family. And as a matter of fact, Robin’s family was about to get a whole lot bigger.
Robin’s reunion with Michael got huge press coverage, which allowed him to track down other people from his past. Soon after, he met his birth father, Marcos Meza, who learned about the story on TV.
Marcos also introduced Robin to his daughters! Within a few weeks, the baby who was once left to die found himself suddenly surrounded by more family than he could ever imagine. All Robin was missing was his mother.
NBC Los Angeles
As it turns out, Robin’s birth mother was out of reach. After Sabrina Diaz spent years in prison for child abandonment, the government deported her to Mexico. Nevertheless, Robin doesn’t see his mother as a villain.
Maybe Robin will be able to connect with his mother someday, but for now, he knows he’s incredibly lucky. What could be better than spending time with the parents who raised him, the family who lost him, and the hero who gave him a chance at life?
NBC Los Angeles