Couples trying to get pregnant through artificial insemination may have been victims of a disturbed fertility clinic worker who swapped his own sperm in place of at least one client’s,CeCe Moore writes at Your Genetic Genealogist.
Moore, a genetic genealogy blogger, kept her sources anonymous, so we haven’t been able to verify the story in full. That said, we were able to confirm some specifics (see below), and Moore’s consulting role on the PBS show Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr lends this twisted tale some credibility.
She details the story of a Utah couple, whom she calls Paula and Jeff, and their 21-year-old daughter (“Ashley”) who was conceived using the help of a fertility clinic. Paula and Ashley took a 23andMe genetic test and then encouraged Jeff to do the same.
That’s when the family got the first sign that something had gone wrong: Jeff “showed no genetic match to his daughter,” Moore writes, something that traditional paternity testing soon confirmed.
Using another genetic networking site, AncestryDNA, the family found “Cheryl,” who was related to Ashley but not to Paula. Cheryl responded to a message from Paula to offer some information: Her deceased cousin, Tom Lippert, had lived in Salt Lake City and been a sperm donor.
When Paula and Jeff saw Tom’s picture, they recognised him: He had been a worker at their fertility clinic at Reproductive Medical Technologies, a clinic they thought was affiliated with the University of Utah. Tom’s mother reportedly took a sperm test that confirmed Tom was Ashley’s biological father.
That’s when Cheryl thought Paula should know about Tom’s sordid past. As Moore writes:
She told Paula that Tom had served time in prison for kidnapping a female college student … Paula searched the Internet for any additional information [and] was shocked to find an article from People Magazine dated October 20, 1975. What she read was horrifying.
The article stated that Tom had been a brilliant law student at Notre Dame Law School and had gone on to a promising early career as a law professor at Southwestern State College. However all that changed, when at 25, he was accused of hatching a bizarre plan to kidnap a young Purdue student and hold her as a prisoner in a “love experiment.”
The student was reportedly kept in a black box and subjected to electric shock therapy in an attempt to brainwash her into falling in love with Tom.
After serving two years of a six year sentence, Tom moved to Minnesota for a few years and then ended up in Salt Lake City. According to Moore, he worked at Reproductive Medical Technologies from 1986 to 1995 and displayed dozens of photos at his desk of children he said he’d “helped” couples conceive. Paula now is left wondering just what that meant — did he help through his work at the clinic, or in other, more deceptive ways?
They’ve set up a website to help others who think they may have been secretly fathered by Tom Lippert.
We reached out to a former employee of Reproductive Medical Technologies, who referred us to the University of Utah press office. While the University could not verify Moore’s story in full, they confirmed that there is an ongoing investigation into a Reproductive Medical Technologies semen sample that may have been tampered with.
The University of Utah emailed us this statement:
Since April 2013, the University of Utah has been investigating credible information regarding the possible mislabeling or tampering of a semen sample at RMTI (Reproductive Medical Technologies, Inc.), a private andrology lab owned by a University faculty member (now deceased). The facility was a private laboratory located in Midvale, Utah. While not owned or operated by the University, the University contracted with RMTI for specimen preparation and semen analysis. Additionally, RMTI prepared semen samples for private physician offices throughout the community, not University physicians.
Through genetic testing, a woman who received artificial insemination (AI) in 1991 discovered the biological father of her child was not her husband, as she had assumed. She traced the genetics of her child to a man who was a former employee of the now-defunct RMTI, which may have prepared the AI sample. The man in question was also a part-time employee of the University from 1988-94.
There are no remaining records from RMTI to prove the claim and the man in question has been deceased since 1999. Consequently, it is unknown how this incident might have happened. In addition, there is no evidence to indicate this situation extends beyond the case in question.
We understand this information has been upsetting for the family and other clients of RMTI. We want to help alleviate this distress by providing professional genetic testing for RMTI clients who were treated between 1988 through 1994.
Concerned individuals should contact the University of Utah Andrology Lab at 801-587-5852.