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Honduran Boy Admits Tale Was a Lie

June 30, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ A 13-year-old Honduran boy’s fantastic tale of journeying 37 days from his mudslide-devastated homeland to New York to be with his father captured the headlines as well as the hearts of New Yorkers.

But the story was made up, and now Edwin Sabillon has some explaining to do.

``I want him back,″ his grandmother, Paula Vazquez Hernandez, said Tuesday. ``I want him to return to me. And I’m going to send him to reform school.″

The boy’s story made front-page news here. He enchanted all he met _ including New York police and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani _ and was given gifts and assistance in his supposed search for his father.

``We all wanted to adopt him, to take care of him,″ Detective Gilbert Ramirez said.

But in an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press in Honduras, Edwin’s grandmother said the boy’s mother, her daughter, is alive and his father is dead.

Edwin admitted Tuesday night that he had lied, that he knew his father was dead and his mother alive, according to a police statement.

``I don’t know why he did this _ maybe because he wants to live in the United States,″ said Mrs. Vazquez Hernandez, 65, who lives in San Buenaventura, Honduras.

The boy said he set out for New York City after losing his mother, grandfather and brother in last year’s mudslides, hoping to find the father he never knew. For 37 days, he hitchhiked, rode buses and sometimes just walked _ from Honduras to Mexico, then to Texas, Florida and finally New York.

Mrs. Vazquez Hernandez said Edwin’s father, Grevis Sabillon, died of AIDS shortly after he returned to Honduras last October. He had been living in Miami.

When his father died, Edwin was living with an aunt in Miami but then returned to Honduras, she said.

Edwin then left Honduras again in March to stay with relatives in Hialeah, Fla. He had arrived there within two weeks, Mrs. Vazquez Hernandez said.

The boy’s mother lives in the northern Honduras industrial town of Choloma, but abandoned him when he was ten months old, Mrs. Vazquez Hernandez said.

Edwin has two aunts in Hialeah, Maria Elizabeth Sabillon and Aurora Sabillon; neither could be immediately reached for comment. It was unclear why Edwin left Florida for New York.

In New York he became a minor celebrity. His picture appeared on the front page of Tuesday’s edition of the Daily News. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani vowed to ask immigration officials not to deport the boy’s father.

Edwin had told police his relatives died in a mudslide last year when Hurricane Mitch pummeled Central America.

But the area of Honduras where he lived with his grandmother is high ground and was not seriously affected by the hurricane, which devastated much of the country in November.

He said his father sent him $200 on May 19 and told him to meet him on a ramp to LaGuardia Airport on either June 25, 26 or 27, police said Monday.

``I will be wearing a white shirt, black pants, white sneakers and a black hat,″ Edwin said he was told by his father, according to police.

Police said Edwin went to a cafeteria in Miami on Saturday and told his story to people who bought him a bus ticket to New York City. He arrived in New York on Sunday and took a cab to the airport.

But after driving around for a while, the driver became concerned and took Edwin to police.

Edwin repeated his story to detectives, who spent Monday and much of Tuesday combing the city for the boy’s father. Meanwhile, he was showered him with gifts.

The taxi driver, Jose Basora, bought him in-line skates; the detectives bought him new clothes, fed him McDonald’s hamburgers and got him an ice cream cake.

It was not immediately clear what would happen to the boy, who is currently staying with a Spanish-speaking foster family in the city.

``City authorities will continue to provide for the boy’s safekeeping,″ Police Commissioner Howard Safir said. ``Our primary concern at this time is for Edwin’s well-being.″

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