DETROIT (AP) — A quarter-century ago, Dwanna Wiggins implored police and the public to help locate her 4-year-old who she said disappeared at a Detroit-area mall just before Christmas.
Wiggins, whose last name was Harris at the time, said Friday that she has had communications with a man who claims to be D'Wan Sims, but she has doubts and no idea if he really is her son.
"I have no clue, whatsoever," she told The Associated Press Friday from her home in Durham, North Carolina. "You would like to be hopeful."
The man, whose name has not been released, told police in the suburb of Livonia that he believes he is D'Wan, according to a Detroit media outlet.
Wiggins told police on Dec. 11, 1994, that D'Wan disappeared while they were shopping. Surveillance video showed the mother inside Wonderland Mall, but there were no images of D'Wan.
"I was here at the department and we looked at all of the video, we checked everything, and we never saw D'Wan" with his mother, Livonia police Capt. Ron Taig told the television station.
Sgt. Shelley Holloway told the Detroit Free Press in 2009 that investigators were "pretty confident D'Wan never made it to Wonderland Mall."
The man has given police a sample of his DNA. Police have not released any information about where he says he has been for the past 25 years or why he has finally come forward.
"I guess what's odd is that he claimed that he didn't want any of this information out in the media and from what I understand he has put this out on social media," Taig said.
Someone tagged Wiggins in Facebook posts this month in which the man says he believes he is D'Wan. He told her he was trying to find his birth family, she said. She didn't provide other details about what he said.
"I reached out to him. We had conversations via Facebook," Wiggins told The AP. "I reached out to him once the story went viral on Facebook. I was trying to be compassionate to him and his story. This is still an investigation. It's not a joke."
But Wiggins said she is wary and has been the target of "constant ridiculing" due to the circumstances of D'Wan's disappearance.
"With every other thing that has happened ... it's been negative about me," she said.
D'Wan now would be 29. He still is listed as missing on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children website.
The AP left a message at the police department seeking comment on the case.
In April, Brian Michael Rini claimed he was 14 and told police in Kentucky that he was Timmothy Pitzen, an Aurora, Illinois, boy who disappeared in 2011 at age 6. Authorities said Rini told them he escaped captors who sexually abused him.
Federal authorities said they were suspicious after Rini refused to be fingerprinted. DNA testing quickly revealed his true identity. Rini had been released from a state prison in March after serving more than a year on burglary and vandalism charges. Prison records show he was accused of making up stories during his time there.
When confronted with the DNA results, Rini said he had watched a story about Timmothy on ABC's "20/20" and wanted to get away from his own family, the FBI said. Authorities said he twice earlier portrayed himself in Ohio as a juvenile victim of sex trafficking.
He faces trial next year on charges of aggravated identity theft and lying to FBI agents.
AP News Researcher Monika Mathur in New York contributed to this report.