BOONE COUNTY, Mo. - Tyler Bozeman's daughter was taken from him when she was only a few months old.
"When she said, 'are you sitting? Are you sitting down?' My heart skipped a beat," said Bozeman.
Jillanne Pagano took her daughter away from Bozeman in 2013.
According to Bozeman, he thinks Pagano kidnapped their daughter away out of anger. Bozeman said he told Pagano's father about her going into labor. According to Bozeman, Pagano's mother, Valerie, and father, John, were in the middle of a messy divorce at the time.
A year after Pagano left with Lillianna, Bozeman said he finally had enough money for an attorney to fight for custody of his daughter. According to court documents, he was awarded sole custody of Lillianna Pagano in 2015.
But in 2016, Lillianna was still missing.
"I wrote the governor at the time, Jay Nixon, and got their help," Bozeman said of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
On Thursday, Bozeman finally saw his daughter for the first time since Pagano had taken her.
During the search, troopers found an SD card that contained photos of what appeared to be a wedding between Jillanne and an unknown man. The photos were dated Aug. 15, 2018, and Valerie, Julianna and Lillianna were in many of the photos, court documents said. Troopers also found a receipt for a cabin rental in Murphy, North Carolina. The rental was from June 2-16, 2019, for two adults and one child.
"She was quite upset when I initially got there," Bozeman said of his daughter.
Lillianna will be 6 years old in July, which means she's spent more than five years without her biological father. According to Bozeman, Pagano had originally told her that he was dead.
Lillianna also went by the name "Nadya." Bozeman said his daughter has never known herself to be named "Lillianna," so he will allow her to go by whatever name she prefers.
Bozeman said his daughter has missed her mother during the time she has been with him, but Bozeman said he plans to allow Pagano to see her for supervised visits when she is out of jail.
"I told her 'all kids need mommys and daddys.'"