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updated: 5/23/2014 6:09 PM

Graduate meets the man who saved her

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  • From left are Skyler James, Charlie Heflin, and Greg and Bonnie James, Skyler's adoptive parents, in Charleston, Ill. Heflin saved Skyler 18 years ago when he found her abandoned in a cemetery.

      From left are Skyler James, Charlie Heflin, and Greg and Bonnie James, Skyler's adoptive parents, in Charleston, Ill. Heflin saved Skyler 18 years ago when he found her abandoned in a cemetery.
    Courtesy of Skyler James

 
Associated Press

CHARLESTON, Ill. -- Skyler James and Charlie Heflin share a long history.

But before James graduated from high school in Charleston last week, the two didn't know each other at all.

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According to the News-Gazette in Champaign, Heflin was an emergency medical technician listening to police scanner traffic back on Nov. 4, 1995, that led him to join the search for an abandoned baby.

Looking in a cemetery near Champaign, Heflin found the baby that would become known briefly as "Crystal Hope" in news coverage.

The 6-pound, 6-ounce baby girl was soon adopted by Bonnie and Greg James in Charleston. Heflin moved on to the Evansville, Indiana, area where he still lives.

After searching for Heflin for years, Bonnie James tracked him down a few weeks ago and called him.

"She asked if I could come for graduation," Heflin said. "I said I'd be happy to."

Heflin went to Skyler James' graduation but saved his surprise for her party on Sunday.

"Best gift ever," Skyler said, adding that she thought her parents might get her jewelry as a graduation gift. "I never expected it to be Charlie."

The two hugged and talked and, the 18-year-old James said, there wasn't a dry eye in the room.

"After 18 years, I was so elated to find out that she turned out to be such a beautiful young woman, so vibrant and intelligent," said Heflin, who is now 45. "Such a joyous occasion."

Now they plan to stay in touch, and so far are doing a good job.

"We've been talking every day since," Skyler said.

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