Mystery girl sparks international investigation
A little girl in Greece is at the center of an international search to find her parents. The lawyer for the couple the child was found living with denied she had been kidnapped.
This is the story not of a missing little girl, but a mysteriously found one. "Maria" could be both.
Now the charity caring for her says more than 10,000 calls and e-mails have poured in from around the world, revealing around ten promising leads. At least four of those are from the United States including information from a Kansas City, Missouri couple whose daughter Lisa Irwin disappeared from her bed more than two years ago.
They spoke of their anguish on The TODAY Show at the time: "I am a mess. I am frustrated. We need answers. We need Lisa."
Lisa Irwin was ten months old when she disappeared. Maria is believed to be at least five or six.
Police believe Maria came to live in the Roma - sometimes still called Gypsy - camp in central Greece in 2009.
Charity workers say she was terrified to be taken away by authorities last week but is now doing well.
"Just communicated through the drawings and body language," said Kostas Yannopoulos, Smile of a Child.
Police had raided the camp looking for guns and drugs. They seized those, along with Maria, after a prosecutor noticed she looked nothing like the couple she was living with. A DNA test proved she was not the couple's child.
Police arrested and accused them of abduction, and say they had registered 14 children as their own.
As for Maria, investigators say the couple gave multiple, conflicting stories about how they got her, including that they found her abandoned, and that her Bulgarian mother gave her to them when Maria was days old.
Many people in the camp knew of the story of a Bulgarian woman who had allegedly given the couple her baby, but no one NBC spoke to had ever seen her themselves. They say that is the story that the couple was telling.
Now other families around the world looking at this face and wondering with hope, could she be their child?
Greek police have the help of Interpol behind them now, and one of the many possibilities they're looking at is whether this case could be linked to child trafficking rings.