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Portland Press Herald
A Lost Brother Is Found; A Portland Police Officer Helps Reunite A Family That For Years Had Been Out Of Touch
February 8, 2003
For more than a decade, Jeanette Dominguez fretted about her brother, Larry, whom she had not seen for 18 years. She worried that he was alone somewhere, cut off from the love and support of his family.
Then, surfing the Internet, she found his name mentioned in a Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram article from three years ago, and her search took on a frenzied urgency.
That's when Jeanette Dominguez' determination met the investigative skills and the empathy of Portland Police Lt. Janine Roberts.
Roberts, head of the department's tactical enforcement unit, took up the quest of finding Larry Dominguez three weeks ago. Within a few days, she ran into some of his former co-workers while responding to an unrelated incident. Through her efforts, Larry Dominguez called his sister for the first time since the early 1980s.
"I think I'm delirious but it's a happy delirious," Jeanette Dominguez said from her Miami home on Friday. "I never felt this giddy. It's just a good feeling to know he's OK."
She praised Roberts for her willingness to help. "There is no greater good than to help a total stranger," she said.
Larry Dominguez, 45, said he is thrilled to be reconnected with his family, something he thought about often but never followed through on.
"You go to sleep with the images of your family, but you block it out," he said. "I deluded myself into thinking maybe they don't want to get in touch with me."
The Dominguez family has been scattered before. During a tough childhood in the Bronx, the family was split up when their parents divorced. Larry Dominguez stayed with his grandmother. Jeanette, a year younger, stayed with her aunt, and three younger brothers were sent to an orphanage in upstate New York.
Eventually, their mother remarried and reunited the children in Puerto Rico and from there the family moved to Miami. Larry Dominguez married, and his family eventually returned to the New York area.
In the 1980s, Larry Dominguez went through some difficult times, got divorced and in 1990 caught a ride out of the New York area with a friend who was headed for Millinocket where he'd heard good jobs could be had.
"I just wanted a whole new move," he said. When they stopped in Portland, Larry Dominguez decided he'd gone far enough. He's been working and living in the city ever since.
Over the years, he thought of his siblings often but had no idea how anxious they were to find him. He also had no hint how thrilled they would be when they did finally connect.
When he called for the first time, "it was like the flood gates opened . . . I was on the phone for the next three hours."
Now he has nephews and nieces he never knew.
"I've got a list at home, names and dates, ages and addresses," he said.
One of his brothers plans to come to Portland to visit him in the next week. Larry Dominguez said he'll reunite with the rest of his clan this summer - when the climate shift won't be quite so abrupt.
Jeanette Dominguez, who has been fixated on finding her brother said she can now resume her life.
"I was worried sick about him," she said. "I would cry. I still cry. That's how come what Janine did was so important."
Roberts said it goes with the territory. "It is part of my job," she said. "It's a citizen's request. I didn't make any promises to the woman that I would be successful, but I told her I would at least try.
"As sappy as it sounds, I think a lot of us are in this business to make a difference," Roberts said.