Father speaks out after missing child returned to his custody
COLUMBIA - The missing 5-year-old girl found safe in North Carolina this week is now back in her father's custody.
In an exclusive interview with KOMU 8 News Saturday, Tyler Bozeman identified the child as his daughter, Lily. He said the mother, Jillianne Pagano, took Lily.
Pagano was taken into custody on Thursday after a three-year-long investigation.
Bozeman said Lily is now back in his custody and he's excited for her to have a normal childhood.
"She's going to meet her grandpa John tomorrow for Father's Day, so we let her pick out some gifts for him and everything. It's just been, it's really been amazing."
Bozeman said the process to get Lily back wasn't easy, especially since his name wasn't on her birth certificate. He said authorities perform a DNA test to confirm he was her father.
Bozeman said he plans on getting Lily enrolled in school.
"She is going to be a first grader when school starts up again because she was home schooled," Bozeman said. "That's kind of the next step, it is reintegrating her into normal childhood living."
Bozeman said the child's mother changed his daughter's name from Lillianna to Nadya to conceal her identity while in hiding. He said he is slowly transitioning Lily back to her birth name, but ultimately leaving the decision up to her.
Saturday's development came after two additional people were arrested in connection with Lily's disappearance.
Bozeman said he believed the three suspects were working in connection with each other the whole time Lily was missing.