Bulgarian woman is mother of girl found in Greece - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Bulgarian woman is mother of girl found in Greece

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FAIRWAY, KS (KCTV/AP) -

DNA test results released Friday have determined that a mysterious young girl found in Greece with a gypsy couple is the daughter of a Bulgarian woman.

This means the girl is not 'Baby' Lisa Irwin, who went missing from her Kansas City home in October 2011. Lisa's third birthday is next month.

Authorities had thought it was unlikely that the girl known as "Maria" was Lisa, but physical similarities prompted Lisa's parents, Debbie Bradley and Jeremy Irwin, to ask for the DNA to be compared.

A Roma woman in remote town in central Bulgaria had her DNA tested, and authorities determined she is the biological mother of a suspected abduction victim in neighboring Greece known as "Maria" whose case had triggered a global search for her real parents.

The woman has said she gave birth to a baby girl four years ago in Greece while working as an olive picker, and gave the child away because she was too poor to care for her.

Genetic profiles of Sasha Ruseva and her husband, Atanas, matched that of the girl, said Svetlozar Lazarov, an Interior Ministry official.

Sasha Ruseva, 35, had been tested for a match and served with preliminary charges of child selling, but was not detained, Bulgarian authorities said Thursday.

Ruseva appeared on Bulgarian television after being questioned at a police station in the town of Nikolaevo, 280 kilometers (175 miles) east of the capital, Sofia, and admitted she once left a baby behind in Greece while working there, but was not sure if Maria was her daughter.

"I don't know if it's her. How would I know that? I didn't take any money. I just didn't have enough money to feed her," Ruseva said speaking on TV, which showed pictures of her and her family outside her mud-floored village home outside the town.

Several of the children seen at the village were barefoot or looked poorly cared for.

"I intended to go back and take my child home, but meanwhile I gave birth to two more kids, so I was not able to go back," Ruseva said.

Bulgarian Interior Ministry chief secretary Svetlozar Lazarov said Ruseva had told police she had seen televised pictures of a Greek Roma couple who had looked after Maria and recognized them as the same people with whom she left her child.

A blond-haired and fair-skinned girl aged 5 or 6, Maria, was discovered last week near Farsala in central Greece during a police raid on a Gypsy settlement. DNA tests on the Roma couple revealed they weren't her parents and the two were charged with abduction and document fraud.

They insist they were looking after Maria with their own five children after an informally-arranged adoption.

The girl was placed into the care of a children's charity.

John Picerno, an attorney for Lisa's parents, issued a statement in which he said Bradley and Irwin were disappointed that the child wasn't their missing daughter.

"They are encouraged by the fact that another missing child was found and returned to her parents," he wrote. "This is truly a great thing!"

Picerno had worked with the FBI as part of the investigation, and Picerno said Lisa's parents appreciated the efforts to identify Maria.

"They would like to thank law enforcement, their supporters and the general public for their efforts to return Lisa home. The outpouring of support from all over the world has been fantastic. They remain hopeful that Lisa will be found someday," Picerno wrote.

Maria's case has drawn global attention, playing on the shocking possibility of children being stolen from their parents or sold by them.

But it has also raised concerns that news coverage of Maria and actions taken by authorities in the high-profile case are fueling racist sentiment against the Gypsy minority, who number around 6 million in the European Union.

"The long-standing problem of negative media reporting on minorities has vehemently re-emerged with the cases of the children found in Roma families ... propagating age-old myths portraying Roma as child-abductors," the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks said in a statement.

In the central Romanian town of Sibiu, Dorin Cioaba, an influential Gypsy community leader widely known as the king of the Roma, said the Greek couple's story sounded plausible.

"Roma families love their children very much. They would give their lives for their children," Cioaba told Associated Press Television News.

"What I think (happened) is that young woman who abandoned the child gave her to this family knowing that if she leaves her on the street, she will end up in a state orphanage or even taken by someone, sold and trafficked ... Maybe this girl did not grow up in a the best environment. But I don't believe what I have heard that this little girl was traumatized."

A lawyer representing the Greek couple said Friday they planned to seek legal custody of the fair-haired girl.

The couple have told authorities they had received Maria after an informal adoption.

Under Greek law, child abduction charges can include cases where a minor is voluntarily given away by its parents outside the legal adoption process.

"Now that they're in prison there's not much they can do," their lawyer, Costas Katsavos, said.

"But provided what we said is borne out, that it was not an abduction, then logically they will be released from prison and they will be able to enter a proper (adoption) process ... They truly and ardently want her back."

Costas Yannopoulos, director of the Greek children's charity "Smile of the Child" which has been looking after the girl said he had no comment on her fate.

"We are dealing with the humanitarian side of this issue, looking after a young girl," Yannopoulos told the AP in response to the news.

Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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