Related topics

Family Reunites With Stolen Baby

January 24, 1998

FAJARDO, Puerto Rico (AP) _ Flashing matching smiles and overcoming language barriers, two sisters met for the first time since one disappeared from their San Diego home seven years ago.

Then, Crystal Anzaldi was a chubby 14-month-old learning to toddle. She was discovered in Puerto Rico late last year when officials investigated the woman claiming to be her mother for child abuse.

Crystal also held a joyful reunion Friday with her parents, Dorothy and Jeffrey Anzaldi, but officials refused to disclose details.

But while the Anzaldis were in court confirming their paternity, the child spent several hours with her 10-year-old sister, Kendra Anzaldi.

``It was a delightful scene,″ said Jennifer Ramirez of Puerto Rico’s Family Department.

She said that when social workers tried to translate what Kendra was saying in English to Crystal, who speaks English only haltingly, ``Crystal quickly cut in with her English. She wouldn’t let them translate.″

Puerto Rican officials and the sisters’ parents have noted the remarkable similarity of the girls’ smiles.

It was Crystal’s distinctive smile and a birthmark that helped lead investigators to her true identity through a computer search of hundreds of pictures of missing children.

Some pain clouded the joy Friday when officials disclosed that Crystal was abused by Nilza Guzman Gierbolini, the woman who masqueraded as her mother.

Gierbolini, 35, has denied abusing Crystal and has filed for custody. She goes to trial next month on charges of falsifying a birth certificate. She gave Crystal’s name as Sonia Guzman but kept the same birth date _ which helped lead investigators to Crystal’s identity.

Gierbolini has not been charged with kidnapping, though a federal grand jury in San Diego could bring an indictment. She has said Crystal was given into her temporary care by a bartender who told her the child’s mother had died.

Ramirez said the government would fight Gierbolini’s efforts for custody. Crystal ``has no desire to see Nilza, or to be called by her former name,″ she said.

Officials said the Anzaldis were confirmed in court to be Crystal’s parents.

Ramirez indicated that Crystal likely will be given into the care of her father, who lives in Banks, Ore., under an agreement with the mother. A friend of Mrs. Anzaldi told the San Diego Union-Tribune that she planned to move to Oregon from Corning, Calif., to be nearer both her daughters.

The Anzaldis’ marriage broke up under the stress of the child’s disappearance and Anzaldi’s suspicions, later retracted, that his wife might be involved.

Before leaving Oregon, Crystal’s father had said he hoped to bring her home with him. But Puerto Rican officials said they first must go to Oregon and California to study the parents’ lifestyles.

Mrs. Anzaldi told reporters she had been ``so very happy″ to receive a card from Crystal _ one with four hearts surrounding smiling faces and the message ``Te amo,″ or ``I love you.″

Update hourly