By Oren Liebermann
MEDFORD, NJ(CBS) — Steve Carter had never seen the composite sketch before, but he knew exactly who he was looking at.
“That 28 year old composite picture, which will probably haunt me for the rest of my life, popped up, and after looking at it for a couple minutes, I realize that’s me,” said Carter.
Carter had known all his life he had been adopted, but only last year did he try to learn more about his past. Slowly, with the help of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, he pieced his own story together. His mother put him in a Hawaiian orphanage when he was six months old without his father knowing. She changed his name from Marx Panama Barnes to Tenzin Amea.
His father declared him missing but was never able to find him. More than thirty years later, Carter saw a story about Carline White, an Atlanta woman who discovered she had been kidnapped from a Harlem hospital. He used the story as motivation to look into his own upbringing, and that is when Carter found himself on a missing person’s website.
“Unfortunately, I grew up in an orphanage, and I didn’t really have many pictures of me as a baby,” said Carter, “so it was the first time I saw myself as an infant.”
The Carter family from New Jersey adopted him when he was 3 years old and brought him to Medford, where he grew up, and then attended Penn State. Now, as he has found out more about himself, he is finding out about his family.
“Got a great family now. Lots of aunts and uncles. Just married into a great family,” beamed Carter at his wife, Tracy. “But now I have another set of relatives that I really need to get to know.”
Through it all, Carter says there is nothing he would change about his life story, no matter where it has been, or where it will take him.
“I think if I changed anything, I might not be right here, right now, so I’m very happy where I’m at and I wouldn’t change anything.”
Carter has not met his biological family in person yet. He says that will take time, but they are talking online and over the phone. The most important message he wants to get out is the gratitude he has for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for all the help they have given him.