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DNA Investigator with a 100 Percent Success Rate
Episode 3314th February 2023 • Family Twist • Corey and Kendall Stulce
00:00:00 00:52:50

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Family Twist Episode 33: DNA Investigator with a 100 Percent Success Rate

Our guest this episode is Shayna Landry, a forensic genealogist and private investigator a.k.a. DNA detective. You may have seen Shayna on Netflix’s docuseries, "I Just Killed My Dad," where she used her DNA expertise to assist the investigation. Shayna shares her experience finding her birth father via DNA, and how she uses that discovery to help others on their adoption/found family journeys.

"Every time I'm able to give someone their answers, it cures a little piece of my broken heart," Shayna said. "I cry with my clients; I laugh with my clients. Most times, we walk away with a friendship. Everyone is on an island and friends and family don't understand.

Guest Bio:

Shayna Landry has solved hundreds of DNA mysteries over the years using the expertise in Genetic Genealogy and Investigation that she acquired while digging deeper into her own DNA to find her biological father. Shayna has assisted in the following using Professional Facial Recognition Software:

  • Helped Desperate Family Members Identify Internet Scams (Catfish) Cases
  • Assisted Law Enforcement Agencies identify Criminals
  • Identified People listed in NAMUS as Unidentified
  • Identified Victims of Current & Ongoing Crimes

Contact Shayna:

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00:28 We love being near them all and the adventure continues. Thank you for joining us again on family twist. Unfortunately, Kendall is not with us today. He's dealing with some work drama, so it's just me, I'm afraid, but I'm very excited because our guest is Shayna Landry, a forensic genealogist and private investigator, also known as a DNA detective. Now, you might have seen Shana on Netflix's I just killed my dad where she used her DNA expertise to assist the investigation. END 00:58 END

years ago? Yep. In:

01:31 And so I was really curious about where I came from and who I was. And my mom gave me a name. And actually, my detective work started when I was a freshman in high school. I guess Google had Google, I guess, wasn't even a thing at the point. It was Yahoo maybe or white pages. And I found the man that she said was my father, and I looked him up, he lived about 15 minutes away. So I contacted him, and he said, I don't think I'm your dad. END 02:01 END

didn't want to be a dad. END:

02:31 So I went on about my life. A few years later, I reached out to his mother to see if she wanted to meet me or know about me and she was curious, but didn't continue beyond the phone call. And then came the ancestry DNA, I guess it was like an ad through a DJ on the local radio station. And I figured out that you could connect with family members. END 02:59 END

e what popped up for you? END:

03:29 So I had learned a little bit through Facebook at that point, this was 2016. So DNA was hotter at that time than it had been. And so there were Facebook groups of people trying to figure out how to work with the DNA. And others who were really good at it that were helping them. And so I knew pretty quickly that the man that my mom had said was my father, which was her on again, off again college, boyfriend, was not my father because I was very lucky that he was not from Louisiana. END 04:02 END

So it was pretty obvious. END:

04:35 So did you start reaching out to some of the people you matched with or how did you go about that process? So my dad was very Italian. And I don't know how much you guys have dive into this, but a lot of other countries don't test yet or maybe they do, but they're not using ancestry. So at the time, I had no idea, but I had very few matches on his side. END 05:02 END

was much farther removed. END:

05:33 And I did reach out to the First Lady, but she was much older and wasn't using ancestry. So I did some more detective work and ended up speaking to her 97 year old mother. And she was like, you need to call my other daughter. And so I did, and at first, she was like, I didn't do my DNA. I don't want any part of this. END 05:58 END

e or double digits. Yeah. END:

06:27 So yeah, so that would have been, I don't know if you knew you know what those numbers meant back then, but yeah, it would have been. I did not. I had to get those kind of numbers. Yes. And back then, we were still using the chart. They didn't have the tools that they have now, so you couldn't just type a number in. We were using the charts like trying to figure out what that number meant. And we even now trying to use the chart, that number could almost fit anywhere because it's so low. Right, right. END 06:54 END

d we had a mutual friend. END:

07:22 So I reached out to the mutual friend and I said, hey, listen, I know and he was actually more of an acquaintance to me. So I probably sounded crazy. But I was like, listen, I know this sounds crazy, but can you please ask her to check her Facebook messages? So he did, and she did, thankfully, and she basically just told me who her dad was. She wasn't super close to the family. END 07:49 END

th the sagrada last name. END:

08:22 And so it's funny because her last name was Smith, her maiden name. So it was like a needle in a haystack. And then I've got this super unique name. So it was really easy to find her because of her obituary. And then she had two sons. And I was the names were staring back at me. So it was a wild ride for a second there, and then it was like the answer was in my lap. Wow. END 08:51 END

arried with children now. END:

09:20 And I didn't want to, I just wanted to know where I came from and who I was. I didn't need necessarily a father. I had a father who raised me. But I did want to know what could have been or what should have been. And to know if he if I had siblings or anything about my genetic past or my biology. So I started looking at them and my uncle at the time I didn't know his my uncle, but he was born in the same year as my mom. END 09:53 END

see of all of his posts. END:

10:27 And it was from when prince died. He had posted a prince ticket. And it was from, I think, 1985. But someone commented that they remember the drive back to southeastern, which was the college that they went to. And how it was so bad. It was icy on the roads or something of that nature. And I was like, bingo, it's him. He was there. I asked my mom, and she confirmed that there was a John. END 10:57 END

ntage prince if he saw him in:

11:29 So I thought I'll reach out to my uncle and see. And even my uncle, I didn't want to call him at home either. So he owned a local gym in New Orleans, so I called the gym and left the message. And when I tell you, this is the most amazing human being on the planet. I mean, he is the most wonderful person. I know. Thank goodness. And he called me back, and we spoke, and he answered all of my questions. I asked if he was married. END 11:58 END

give me his phone number. END:

12:28 Did he give you any kind of sense as to like what he thought your dad's reaction would be? He said, I'm not going to sugarcoat this. He said, please don't tell him you got my phone number from me. And I said, okay, this is a red flag. Right. Because you know the person I just spoke to for like 45 minutes, I guess, was wonderful. And I thought, well, he's got to be similar to him. END 12:55 END

ed him on my lunch break. END:

13:26 And I said, hi you know, and I didn't know what he working you know. He might be on his lunch break as well. And so I was trying to make it quick, but I was also trying to be pretty like business like because my uncle had said you know, he didn't marry or have children because his whole life had been about his career. So I was trying to be very you know, I don't know, more business than all feelings and emotions. END 13:55 END

said, who is your mother? END:

14:26 And I thought, well, I have about 5 seconds to spit out exactly what I know to be true about my mom in 1986. So you know I said she was a tiny blond girl who likely ran cross country. You might have met her at a bar. I don't know. She was at southeastern. And he said, what was her name? And I said, her name. And he said, I know exactly who your mom is. And I was like, wow. Because I did not expect him to say that he knew who she was. END 14:56 END

it was less than dating. END:

15:25 And he said, I don't know. He was just so angry that that was how it was told to me and that you know then he started to realize I think that he had missed 30 years of my life. Yeah. So that started to sink in. And he just got angrier and angrier as we talked. Wow. Yeah. END 15:51 END

anger to get beyond that? END:

16:24 So he asked me for a couple of days to digest the information. And of course, you know, I've been knowing that I have a father out there my entire life, but he didn't know he had a child with their so, however, I was like, okay, how long is it going to take? Yes, I'll give you a couple of days. But it ended up being a little longer than that. END 16:47 END

that DNA test came back. END:

17:18 But so he he reached out. I reached out to him again that weekend, and I said I'm a photo. And he said, look, you know, when the time is right, and then he called me later that day. And he was like, look, I'm all or nothing. I really just need to get this like, I just need to digest this, and then I promise you, I'm 100% all in. END 17:46 END

could have looked it up. END:

18:19 But at the time, I wasn't very savvy with buying phone numbers or using all of these search engines. And so I was like, I got it off the line. And he was like, someone gave you my personal cell phone number online. And I was like, and he said, he said, you got it from my brother, didn't you? And I just sat there, and he said, I knew it. And he hung up the phone. Well, unbeknownst to me, he blocked me. At that moment. In anger, yes. END 18:48 END

he was, again, wonderful. END:

19:19 He's just been so great. And so then a few months later, I figured out that I was blocked and I was given a photo of him by a friend of mine who's dad went to school with him. It was very strange. And so he sent me a side by side of us. And I was like, oh my gosh. He wasn't kidding. I am his twin. So I decided to download a text app and I texted him with a photo and I was like, I got this off Google. END 19:48 END

hen things changed. Yeah. END:

20:18 You know, I found out you know what happened when I saw that. I mean, my heart just sank like, oh, this is not this is not where you want the story to go. No. Yeah. So in November, November 19th, it was a Friday. He contacted me. And I had kept the conversation very, very business like. We only talked about my career. At the time, I was being offered promotions and new jobs and other cities. END 20:49 END

to talk to me, so he did. END:

21:16 And he started telling me that he his house was up for sale. And it was under contract. And he needed he was in a bind. And he was wondering if he could borrow some cash to get him through. And I had just adopted my daughter or the single mom. I adopted her from foster care. END 21:41 END

t actually sold that day. END:

22:13 And so I had money, crazy enough. And so I didn't know what to do. I was like, what if he's scamming me? What if you know he's just using me? So I called one of my friends. And he said, look, a couple hundred bucks is a small price to pay to know if this guy is genuine or not. And you can kind of just walk away if that's all you lose. And I said, he's right. So I gave him the money. END 22:43 END

, like right. Okay. Yeah. END:

23:13 And so that following week was Thanksgiving week. So I kind of pushed a little bit and I said you know, I don't have anything to do. Thanksgiving, night. Why don't my daughter and I come up and see you because we lived about an hour and 15 minutes or so away. So I said, why don't we come over and say hi and bring you some Thanksgiving dinner? And he said, I'm just not ready. Maybe Christmas. And I said, okay, I resigned myself to it. END 23:43 END

verything was going well. END:

24:14 Yeah. And so I kind of left the ball in his court and I thought, okay, well, I mean, I guess this is it you know. Maybe my friend was right. And so that was Thursday, and then on the volunteers day, we'll actually a week and a half later. So the next Tuesday. One of my good friends and I were on the phone and she said, let me call him. END 24:42 END

. END:

25:17 And so I dismissed that very quickly. I was like, I mean, at the time, I didn't know anything about blood pressure, but I was like, I think they make pills for that. You're very young, and I don't want to consider the fact that you could pass. And so. I did tell my uncle that there. I said, look, he's been kind of ill, which I guess I should have said earlier. Maybe it's been obvious that they didn't speak. So my uncle wouldn't have known that. So right. END 25:46 END

contract for that house. END:

26:16 The realtor has talked to him. I mean, there's just no way that he hadn't gotten in contact with her. So I called the realtor. Big mistake. I was driving to work, and I said, hi, I'm Collin to talk to you about the house on gillan street is where he lived. And she said, what would you like to know about it? And I said, I'd like to talk to you about your client. And she said, which one? The buyer or the seller? And I said the seller. END 26:46 END

be here like this. Yeah. END:

27:16 And I text my uncle and I was like, he's dead. Because she said, she said he told me she said, who is this? And I said, this is his daughter. And she said, what is going on? He told me he didn't have any family. And now he has a daughter and a brother? And I was stunned because that told me that my uncle knew yeah. And so I was a little upset about that. END 27:43 END

e a place that he was in. END:

28:16 And so I have no I have no anger or I have no issue with any any way that he handled it. He's been wonderful. 100% of this entire time. So he immediately called the funeral home well, the first thing he told me was I had the coroner's office take blood for you. So that we can do a paternity test. END 28:43 END

d, absolutely no problem. END:

29:14 The coroner's office was bringing my dad to the funeral home that day. And so he went to the funeral home immediately and turned everything over to me as next of kin. He told them I would handle everything. He this fan is a rockstar. He sat in as executor to the estate for my father. He insisted that I be put in as his heir. I mean, just to an amazing human. END 29:43 END

her. It was amazing. Wow. END:

30:14 I mean, I can only imagine, like, all the feelings that you were going through. And, you know, and, you know, doing this podcast and being part of a lot of Facebook groups, you know, you just, you see and read the heartbreaking stories and, you know, but it's just, they, they're becoming more and more common. And I think a lot of people, I think most people in your position, their gut would be like, oh, I wish I had never done a DNA test. I don't want anything to do with DNA ever again. END 30:42 END

t still does to this day. END:

31:12 Every time I'm able to give someone their answers, it kills a little piece of my broken heart. And so that is helpful for me you know. It's just amazing. Where do you think your detective like instincts come from? That's a good question. I have and my mom's side. I have law enforcement background, so I'm assuming it's that. My uncle was a captain in the sheriff's office and now he's chief investigator at the coroner's office. END 31:42 END

hat they were looking at. END:

32:12 And I thought, well, let me take a crack at it. I'm just sitting at home you know not sleeping. So I would spend late hours just diving into people's DNA and I'll never forget my first client. She was devastated you know to find out most of my clients were much older when they found out. So and most of them had the shock, right? END 32:41 END

people's hearts you know. END:

33:06 And then moving into the adoptive realm where I know Kindle knew from day one that he was adopted, but so many people, so many of my current clients are adoptees who found out in their 40s, 50s, 60s that they were adopted, and I can not imagine the amount of betrayal that it must feel that you know the two people that are supposed to be able to trust and love you the most could keep those things from you. END 33:34 END

t. But after that you know, I:

34:06 So if my client has not tested there, I always recommend that they do. And then also you know using ancestry and the tools that it provides such as the trees and be able to connect the trees to the DNA and let it do its magic that way, and then also they added the colored bubbles, which is awesome because I used to have to do that myself. END 34:31 END

A Jed calm, it's amazing. END:

35:02 It's a $5 donation a month, I believe. And it will actually extract the DNA and all of the trees and all the people that are in common with each other. And make a little chart for you. And then it'll tell you who they share in common as far as the ancestors and their tree. So that is like my secret weapon. A lot of people don't know about it and don't use it, but it's awesome. Awesome. And then DNA painter has spent a lot of time using all of the tools on DNA painter, mostly the way to trees, though. END 35:36 END

it work these days? Yeah. END:

36:02 So the Netflix was a huge bump for me as far as clients go. Prior to the Netflix, I was probably working like three or four cases at a time. And I was doing most of them pro Bono. Or for a donation. Now, because of the Netflix, I do have to charge because I am working full time. I also have a nonprofit foster children. END 36:30 END

reach out to the person. END:

36:59 But so many people were like, listen, I turned it off after I heard what you said. And I immediately went in search for you. And I was like, wow, I couldn't imagine feeling so isolated and stuck and not know where to go that I hear this on a documentary and I immediately stopped my life and go. So I'm glad that they did, but yes, things have gone insane since then. END 37:27 END

price for what I'm doing. END:

37:56 Compared to most others that do this for a living. I'm charging about 10%. I do look to increase my prices so that I can go full-time, but it was important to me to keep accessibility for people who can't afford those. Standing prices, don't get me wrong, they are worth every penny. Because you know the information that we're giving to people is life-changing. END 38:23 END

time on my clients. Sure. END:

38:51 And you know, I'm sure you're finding things out that you know, of course, everybody wants a happy ending, but I'm sure you're finding information that's not a happy ending for people and you've got to be able to share that with them. And I'm sure you're doing it with a lot more decorum than the real estate agent. Yeah. Yeah. So that is definitely something I did not take into account was the emotional roller coaster that it would be for me. END 39:15 END

digging into their past. END:

39:44 I'm learning about their family. And so their story becomes a little piece of my story. And you know it does definitely take a toll when it's a sad ending. I cry with my clients. I laugh with my clients. And honestly, after it's all said and done, we walk away most of the time with some sort of friendship because they may need to call on me even after their cases solved. END 40:16 END

stigation. Oh, man. Okay. END:

40:44 So I was drug into that investigation kicking and screaming at first. My at the time, this was a very short version of this. My husband was on furlough whenever this all went down. He works for the federal government. And so one of his coworkers was also on furlough and at the time he was the Dave Ramsey fanatic. END 41:10 END

several weeks at that time in:

41:42 It was the dates. Because it looked like I jumped right in as soon as this happened, but that wasn't the case. It was about a month later. So Anthony was in jail for a while and Elena was beating on every door trying to speak to anyone who would listen at that point. And so they had gotten back from furlough. And my husband makes some sit around the table and kind of share what they do like, even after the weekend. So they had a lot to talk about. END 42:11 END

e need to call Shane out. END:

42:37 So they all called me from the conference room on speaker of fire and were like, can you help this kid and I was like, what do you guys think I'm going to do? And I was like, it just sounds like you know this boiled kid that shot his dad. I don't understand. And so they said, please just talk to this lady. And that was Elena. And luckily for Anthony, Elena, I just really loved her. And I thought, you know what? END 43:06 END

k out the Netflix series. END:

43:37 It's pretty amazing. And you know I could just tell, you know, from just from the little bit that you're in there and, you know, reading about you and reading some of your Facebook posts that's like, oh man, this is a really good person. I'm really looking forward to speaking with her. And so, you know, a couple of your recent Facebook posts get into some stuff that I think is really important when people are, you know, just making these discoveries and reaching out to family. END 44:04 END

ver have too much family. END:

44:37 My daughter is adopted, but I did her DNA when she was three. Just say that she would always have that connection to her biological family. And I reached out to her family. We have extra Christmas Day added in for places we have to go because we go and spend with her family. Because I never want her to not know or for it to be taboo or for her to feel like this is a shock to her. END 45:05 END

far as medical you know. END:

45:39 A lot of the pushback we see is from people who are either embarrassed by the situation or sometimes the children. So maybe like a sibling to the person who is having the revelations, they will try to protect their parent from this information, but you know everyone has a right to know if they have a child out there or vice versa. END 46:10 END

would be okay with that. END:

46:46 Almost all of my clients would be, but to the person looking you know, I always tell my clients if it is a negative reaction that you know whatever happened for you to come about, it wasn't an accident. No matter what anyone says, you were meant to be here, and those people don't define you. And their actions don't define you. END 47:14 END

n just a name. Yeah. Wow. END:

47:43 I didn't know until we started talking just now that you fostered and then adopted your daughter. That's kudos to you for doing that. Oh, twice. Oh, excellent. That's amazing. A handful of episodes ago, you know, kennel and I introduced the idea that we're looking into fostering and maybe adoption as well. So we're kind of doing the research and stuff now. So I saw that. And I was like, wow. That's awesome. I think thank you. END 48:11 END

ow keeping her connected. END:

48:45 Right, right? Well, it's interesting you know. When we started this podcast, we didn't really have a great sense of what the whole found family, the DNA, you know, community was like, and it's, it's actually a lot larger than I would have guessed, you know, a couple of years ago. And it's growing because I think, you know, more and more people are, you know, taking that leap and, you know, they're getting DNA tests for Christmas, and here it is, you know, February, so there might be starting to do, getting ready to do their research. END 49:16 END

e for your clients? I am. END:

49:45 Now, I do have some in a holding pattern right now, but I do not give I don't give up. So I just tell my clients, you know, we might be on pause for a second, but I don't I don't take a client on if it's impossible. And there's been maybe two people that I said, look, I think it's just best to wait. But I give them guidelines you know when you see a match above 200 centimorgans pop up. Give me a call and we're going to go back to it. END 50:15 END

at you do and your story. END:

50:46 It's really remarkable. Thank you. Yeah. I've thought about it you know. My clients, man, some of them have some very interesting stories. And I think they need to be told because I think that there are other people out there and similar situations that could really use the camaraderie, I guess, just to know that they're not alone. Because you know a lot of my clients come to me because they know that I understand how they feel. END 51:18 END

be a shock to the system. END:

51:43 But you know, this podcast has been, you know, healing for Kendall and I you know, and getting to know people you know who have gone through similar experiences and completely different experiences and all of the stories are great. And they're all worth being told. So it's definitely been a worthwhile endeavor and I'm so glad that I found you to be yeah. Me too. Yeah, it's great. And you know I love what you're doing. END 52:12 END

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