After 26 years, a daughter finally finds her father

FRESNO, Calif. _ The phone rang.

Elizabeth Cox could tell from the caller ID that it was James Cliffe III, a man she'd never spoken to, but who shared the same name as her biological father. A father she'd never met. Was this him?

With much hesitation, she answered.

Adopted at birth, Cox had only a handful of records with her parents' names and birth dates. For years, she debated whether she should try to find them. But what would she say? "Hi, I'm your daughter?" That seemed too strange.

Instead, Cox endured the teasing and nagging that adopted children can go through _ "at least my parents wanted me," some of her peers told her.

That didn't stop the Clovis West High School graduate from living her life _ college, music, sports, art, traveling the world. She took it all in. At 17, she moved out on her own.

Independent and stubborn? She freely admits it.

About a month ago, however, as she was finishing her classes and preparing to graduate from California State University, Fresno, and pursue a writing career, Cox, 26, decided that it was time. She was grateful for her adopted parents, Tim and Jodi Cox, but she couldn't go through her whole life without knowing her flesh and blood.

She scoured the Internet and chased down a cell phone number for a Rev. James Cliffe III living in the Los Angeles area. There is no way my father is a reverend, she thought. But she called anyway. She got his voicemail.

"Hello, my name is Elizabeth Cox," she said. "Could you please call me back?"

About an hour and a half later, Cliffe called. Cox asked him if he knew a woman named Caroline Purra, without mentioning that that was her mother's name.

For 15 seconds, there was silence.

Then Cliffe spoke: "I've been looking for you for 26 years," he said.

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