Sgt. in Jefferson County Sheriff's Office reunited with family

Published On: Mar 05 2013 08:59:27 AM HST

A sergeant in the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office has been reunited with her family.

Shauna Rios was born in Bogota, Colombia, but she was abandoned as a child and couldn't find her family for decades, until now.

Rios works at the Judicial Center, dealing with some of Louisville's toughest criminals every day. It's a job that requires guts, tenacity and, most importantly, alertness. But to understand how Rios got to be such a strong person, it's important to understand her origins.

"(I work on) all the high-profile trials, all the murders," said Rios.

But Rios is only discovering who she really is.

She lived with an abusive stepfather in Bogota. When she was 6 years old, her mother abandoned her.

"I came to the conclusion that my mom didn't want me. She didn't want any of the kids. My aunt had sold me to child labor," said Rios.

Rios was abandoned again on the streets a year later. For months she slept in cardboard boxes, stealing food to survive.

"I learned to eat out of a garbage can, I learned to survive on the street. At one point, I learned to suck on gas to be able to fill my stomach," said Rios.

An orphanage took Rios off the streets, and she was adopted and raised in the United States.

Eight years ago, as an adult, Rios searched for her real family.

She talked with immigration officials, searched Bogota neighborhoods, even finding her orphanage, but with disappointing conclusions.

"Our names were false when we got put in the orphanage. Our birthdays were all the same. I don't have a birth certificate when I was little. I don't know how old I am," said Rios.

After a Colombian TV station aired her story, there was a breakthrough.

Families came forward and genetic testing confirmed a match.

Rios met them in bogota last month, decades after being left abandoned.

"(They were) running towards me, and they just hugged me. I've never felt so much love ever in my life. For the first time, I realized, this is how a family is supposed to feel like," said Rios.

It's also a journey to forgiveness for Rios.

"Do I forgive my mother? I have to forgive her. Am I at that point right now? I don't know," said Rios.

Rios said she has finally found closure in her life. She plans to meet her family once again in Colombia in July. 


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