McKEESPORT, Pa. – For 10 years, Tanya Nicole Kach says she was told that her parents didn't want her, that she was stupid and no one cared about her but the middle school security guard who was keeping her in his home.
It took her a decade to build the confidence to come forward, but on Wednesday she finally learned the truth as he she hugged her father, Jerry Kach, in a tearful reunion.
"He's crying, I'm crying. All he kept saying was, 'I got my baby,"' said Kach, now 24, clutching her father's hand. "I'm touching blood, and I get to say, 'I love you, Dad."'
Kach said she was looking forward to seeing her mother on Thursday for the first time in years.
Since February 1996, when her parents reported her missing, Kach had been living at the home of Thomas Hose, 48, in the same town where her father lived in a home about two miles away. She had met Hose at her middle school, where he worked as a security guard.
Allegheny County Police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said Kach wasn't allowed out of the house for the first four years she lived with Hose, but that she wasn't being held against her will when she befriended convenience store owner Joseph Sparico, the man to whom she revealed her identity Tuesday and whose phone call led to the reunion.
Hose used "mind games" to control what Kach wore and where she went and to convince her that her parents, who are now divorced, didn't care about her, Moffatt said. He said the girl had help changing her appearance shortly after she disappeared but wouldn't elaborate.
Kach described to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review how she was manipulated as a teenager.
"You're stupid. You're immature," she said Hose told her. "Nobody cares about you but me."
Hose was jailed Thursday on charges of statutory sexual assault and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. His attorney, James Ecker, said Hose didn't force Kach to live with him.
"I don't think you'll find anybody in these United States who says she was held against her will," Ecker said.
While she was missing, Kach lived two blocks from J.J.'s Deli Mart in this Pittsburgh suburb, police said. For the last six months she would visit the store and, always neatly dressed, would talk to owner Joseph Sparico and his family.
Then, earlier this week, she told Sparico something extraordinary.
"'My name is not Nikki Allen, it's Tanya Nicole Kach,"' he recalled her saying in a frightened voice. "'If you go to a Web site for missing children, you will see me there."'
Sparico called his son — a retired police officer who recognized Kach's name — and a missing children hot line, eventually helping to reunite the woman with her family.
He said Kach told him she wasn't allowed out after dark, and that she thought nobody wanted her other than her boyfriend, who threatened her.
"She wanted to be wanted, that's all," Sparico said. "She'd come up to get a pop, a tea, a paper ... she'd confide in me."
Kach lived in the home Hose shared with his parents since 1996, and Moffatt said for the first four years when others came over, Kach was made to stay in a bedroom.
"She had no contact with people, other than the people that were in the home," Moffatt said.
A woman who answered the phone at Hose's house Thursday morning said, "They're not talking," and hung up.
Kach plans to meet with her mother, Sherri Koehnke, who remarried while her daughter was missing.
"It's the best ending I could have thought about when I thought about what could have happened to her," Koehnke told WTAE-TV.
Kach's father, Jerry, said, "I just say thank you, there is a God and he brought my little girl back home."