Disclaimer: Much of this narrative is based on hearsay and family lore. Some facts are interspersed – just for fun see if you can tell the difference. (All this family drama and brain games too! I’m such a giver!)
Long, long, LONG story short (or shorter anyway):
When I was but a wee toddler my mother had a second baby “out of wedlock” as they said back in those days. Being a divorcée with only a high school education she was already struggling to raise me so she gave up the baby for adoption. I didn’t learn about this phantom sibling until I was in my 30s and only then by a fluke, which led me to believe I had a half-sister somewhere.
A few years ago I received a call from Bob, an investigator for the Sheriff’s Department who was looking for Mom. When I explained she was deceased he proceeded to tell me a long involved story. Since I’m trying to make this as short as possible I’ll touch on the highlights only:
- Adopted sibling turned out to be a brother (John)
- Brother and wife move in with brother’s adoptive mother; tenant rents guest house on property (1983 or 84-ish)
- John, wife and guest house tenant disappear (early 1985)
- Tenant shows up on east coast trying to sell brother’s truck; disappears again before police can question him
- Brother’s adoptive mother sells house; later passes away
- A subsequent homeowner excavates for pool, finds bags of bones (1994)
- Bones can’t be identified and are stored
- Guest house tenant arrested for kidnapping (2008)
Phew! It was Bob’s job to obtain confirmation those bones belonged to my brother so they could charge the tenant/kidnapper with his murder. They knew the bones were from a man and since John had disappeared nine years earlier it seemed logical they were his. His adoptive mother having already passed, the investigation was starting from scratch and they had to unseal the adoption records to find his biological mother in the hope of getting some mitochondrial DNA to test the bones against. Hence Bob’s call to me looking for our mother.
Upon learning that Mom was deceased Bob asked if I’d be willing to provide a DNA sample since we shared the same mother. Well sure, why not? He contacted our local Sheriff’s office and one of their deputies came to my house, took a swab and shipped it out.
Some time later (weeks or months, who can remember?) Bob called back. The DNA in the bones was so deteriorated it was proving difficult to get a match. Could I put him in touch with my other brothers and my sister? (We all have the same mom, different dads – hey Mom was no slouch in the marriage department, five I know of – count ‘em!) Having multiple samples would help in some way I didn’t really understand and the explanation gave me a headache.
With additional DNA and the use of a lab at the Department of Defense (no lie!) they were finally able to definitely confirm the bones were my brother’s. The deputy DA told me I was the best match biologically and I had heard earlier that the match was so close it was entirely possible that we shared the same father. No way to prove that at this late date, but I found it an interesting footnote to what I thought I knew about my family.
The brothers, sister and I learned of the positive identification earlier this year and agreed among ourselves that we wanted to follow the trial when it happened. There didn’t seem to be any further need for our involvement. Um, yeah. Enter the subpoena.
In order to establish the identity of the bones (and how they were identified) for the court, they need me to testify – about being contacted, giving the sample, identifying my mother on the record, etc. This will be the preliminary hearing and I guess it’s pretty important as it will be a deciding factor in whether this actually gets to the trial stage. I’m not a fan of California but heck it’s in January and it’s really, really wet & cold where I live this time of year!
Can we say R – O – A – D T – R – I – P ?!
To the sunshine!!!