SAN ANTONIO - A San Antonio couple who sought artificial insemination services at a Utah clinic 20 years ago have discovered that the husband's sperm was switched with someone else's.
After a difficult search, the couple found out who their daughter's biological father was, and that part of the story is even more jaw-dropping.
For Paula, Jeff and their daughter, Ashley, it seemed like so much fun: For $99 and a cheek swab, a website would help them trace their lineage back 10,000 years. But when Paula eagerly looked at those results, she found out that Jeff and Ashley were not related.
"I felt my stomach just drop," she said. "When I called my daughter and my husband's DNA up next to one another, they didn't share any DNA at all."
The revelation was hard to believe.
"I just thought to myself, 'Oh my god.' I was shaking," she said.
She then talked with her husband.
"I said, 'Jeff, you're not going to believe this. It's showing that you and Ashley are not related. You share no DNA.' Then I said, 'Are you thinking what I'm thinking?' and he said, 'Of course.'"
What they were thinking was about how Ashley was conceived.
In the early 1990s, Jeff and Paula couldn't get pregnant, so they received artificial insemination at Reproductive Medical Technologies, a clinic associated with the University of Utah.
In 1992, Ashley was born. But now, they weren't sure who the father was. Is it possible someone at the clinic made a mistake with their samples?
"I had to come to a realization at that moment that what I was looking at was true and that the unthinkable and the unbelievable was true," Paula said.
Using the genealogy information, Paula tracked down a cousin of Ashley's biological father. The cousin told her that Thomas R. Lippert had worked at the very clinic where Paula had been inseminated.
"I remember that he was at the front desk a lot of the time," she said.
Lippert also worked in the lab, and he kept a collection of baby pictures behind his desk.
"He seemed friendly and was very proud of all those pictures," Paula said. It almost seemed like a brag board up there. Those were the children that he had helped people have."
Lippert's mother agreed to a DNA swab, and the result confirmed that Lippert was indeed Ashley's father.
Paula thinks Lippert switched his sample with Jeff's.
"All those photos of the babies that he was so proud of? I thought, 'Oh my God, how many of those are his biological children?'" she said.
It turns out that before working at the clinic from 1986 to 1995, Lippert was a college professor who served two years in prison for kidnapping a college co-ed and keeping her for three weeks.
Paula and Jeff are speaking out because they think other couples may have been victims of Lippert's possible switches as well.
But when it comes to their daughter Ashley, Paula said she wouldn't change a thing.