Artwork for podcast Family Twist: A Podcast Exploring DNA Surprises and Family Secrets
How DNA Technology Unveils Family Secrets and Solves Cold Cases
Episode 1830th August 2022 • Family Twist: A Podcast Exploring DNA Surprises and Family Secrets • Corey and Kendall Stulce
00:00:00 00:31:04

Share Episode


Have you ever wondered how a detective's expertise can solve mysteries beyond crime scenes, particularly in unraveling personal DNA dramas?

This episode of Family Twist features a compelling discussion with Christine, a retired police officer turned law enforcement trainer, who intertwines her professional skills with her personal journey through DNA discovery. Learn how DNA technology not only solves crimes but also uncovers deep family secrets.

How DNA Technology Unveils Family Secrets and Solves Cold Cases

Listeners will gain:

  • Insight into the integration of DNA technology in solving law enforcement cases and personal ancestries.
  • Strategies for approaching personal and familial identities uncovered through DNA testing, including handling unexpected discoveries.
  • Motivation from Christine's personal story of resilience and her mission to educate law enforcement agencies on the power of DNA in solving cold cases.

Tune in to discover how DNA technology bridges the gap between past mysteries and present truths, and explore the profound impact of genetic discovery both in law enforcement and one’s personal life.

Connect with Christine:

Listen, Rate & Subscribe






Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

Welcome to Family Twist, a podcast about relatively unusual stories of long lost families, adoption, and lots of drama. I'm Corey. And I'm Kendall, and we've been partners for over 16 years. Thanks for joining us once again on Family Twist. Kendall's not with us today. He is working, and sometimes we just have to do these interviews where it's just me because, you know, he does the regular.

nine to five thing and I've got a lot more flexibility in my time, but I'd like to welcome Christine to the podcast today. Thank you for joining us. Thank you so much. Very excited. So I'm excited to get into this because I'm sort of my big question is sort of like the chicken and the egg question because I know you have been involved in helping law enforcement with DNA geology related cases. So.

Was that something you were interested in before you had your own DNA drama or did that become from the DNA drama that you experienced in your life? Kind of both, right? So I was a police officer, detective and sergeant and I retired before all this drama hit, before the DNA came to the surface, so to speak. And I went through...

ng it to them. And in June of:

It's been going gangbusters ever since. So I'm excited about, you know, just being able to continue my work that I, that I started back when I was a police officer. It's always close to my heart being, being able to help these victims and get answers. That's awesome. So let's rewind back and you give us just a little bit of your background as to growing up and how you got into law enforcement and then how the DNA stuff came into your world. My drama.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

Yeah. So I started in law enforcement when I was pretty young. I started out as a reserve officer. I'm from South Florida. And then I just got into it to kind of have fun. It was fun and exciting to me. And then I decided I wanted to do it full time. At first I was scared. I thought, well, I can't do that. I can't drive that car and that big old shotgun. And, and I went through the academy and I said, man, I can do this. This is, this is great to have a rewarding career.

ivate investigation agency in:

and I'm also a law enforcement expert. So it was just my mom and I. My last name is Burke and mom told me about Burke, but Burke didn't want to be a part of my life and I never knew him and that was just the story. And so it was always just mom and I. And when I was really young, she told me that that's a bigger story, but she told me that she had given other children away and I had always asked her about it.

I wanted more family. And in:

And I took the test and I ended up with some strange relatives that I attributed to my father to Burke, who I thought it was. And then through this process, all kinds of crazy, I mean, we would probably need two hours, but all kinds of crazy. So I found out that my dad wasn't my dad. My mother's dad wasn't her dad. I found, oh yeah, you're shaking your head. Yes, it's crazy. I found three half siblings.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

I found that my mom's father, who my grandfather, not only did he cheat with my grandmother, but there's two other half siblings to my mother. And I like to joke because they're a hundred percent Irish that it seems like every time I go on to Ancestry, it's like a slot machine. There's new, new relatives of hers coming up all the time. It's just really crazy. And so that's how.

I found myself trying to figure out who I was. Wow. Wow. So at this point, you know, you've already been a detective out in the field, started your own business. And what made you think about linking these two worlds together? Well, I've always wanted to help, right? The crime fighting has never been far. It's always been a passion of mine, whether I've been actively working or not. And the closest that I came to it after retiring was being a private investigator.

And when I first found out with the DNA, I really struggled in trying to get answers. How did it all work? And, you know, who was I and where do I go? And I was coming up short. And when I finally figured it out, I'm telling you, the light bulb went on. As soon as I got it, it's very easy, in my opinion, to figure it out. And I thought,

This shouldn't be so stressful and everybody deserves to know the answers. But if I can find people's family this quick in a couple of hours, oh my goodness, what I can do for suspects and to identify deceased people. So it's almost my same moral imperative that I had as a police officer. I just have to do it and I just did it and here I am.

I think where a lot of us even first became sort of familiar with DNA was watching police shows, Law and Order. You know, Chief, we got some DNA over here. How did DNA play a presence when you were still in law enforcement, when you were still a detective or an officer? When I first started out, I was a paralegal. I actually started my career working for the public defender's office. And I would go through the cases and we had what was called a secretor or a non -secretor.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

And it was very primitive, shall we say, about what they could tell and what they couldn't tell. And so I kind of got an eye opening to the power of it back then. And then it just kept getting better and better and better. And so I always knew the DNA was accurate. There's never been any doubt in my mind, but I will tell you one of the things when I realized that my father, right, I'm an NPE, so is my mom.

When I first realized it, it was because my, who I thought was my aunt tested and she showed up as a first cousin. And I said, some is wrong here, some's wrong. And, and my cousin, I reached out to my cousin and she said, as I'm sure many people have experienced, my cousin says, no, no, no, no, no. They got it wrong. The machine, the DNA is just not right. Okay. And the cop in me is going, uh -huh. Yeah.

And I started investigating. And so when I realized that my mom's dad wasn't her dad, you know, like that possibility had never come into my mind. And then thinking, grandma did what? And that's what kind of opened Pandora's box. For sure. I think it's funny that you mentioned the skepticism. I think it is still relatively new technology, you know, especially outside of the law enforcement world. And I think a lot of people, when they get that message,

the first time where a family member tells them like, oh, I was contacted by somebody, you know, through Ancestor or 23andMe. They're like, eh, you know, unfortunately, as you know, there are a lot of scammers out there and I'm sure there are people trying to take advantage. But as we always say on the show, DNA does not lie. Absolutely. Yes. So, wow. I know we're jumping around a little bit, but...

Can you talk a little bit about the education process beyond how you get into the whole DNA side of things and what you've learned since, you know, going on your own and retiring? As far as how do I educate the police or - How did you become educated on doing the DNA research and being able to help law enforcement with the DNA cases? Oh my goodness. I just did everything, right? I looked at everything that I could possibly think of.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

I mean, I hired experts. I tried everything just to figure it out. You know, I hadn't really paid any attention to it. I guess I just thought it would be intuitive once I started looking. But then when I realized the relationship, like with the centimorgans and when my aunt turned out not to be my aunt, I said, okay, there's got to be a way of cataloging this. And that's when I decided, you know, when I really figured out the quickest way to get to where I needed to go, I call it my roadmap.

That's when I, you know, I called just down and dirty and I said the police really need this because there's, there's a lot of different ways to look at this, right? Some people think you just need to look at the genealogy and the genealogy is going to tell you everything. And no, it's the DNA. It's the DNA with a little dollop of the genealogy. Right. Right. Just for clarification, the centimorgans are? The measurement of DNA that's shared between two people. I call it like a ruler in that.

You know, if you talk about centimeters, someone is closer to you, the smaller the centimeters, but in DNA it's the opposite, right? So if you think of centimeters and centimorgans, the bigger the number, the more centimorgans, the closer the relative. Gotcha. So let's talk a little bit about how you've been able to assist law enforcement. Can you recall a recent instance where you were contacted and kind of what you...

did to help? Well, what I've been mostly trying to do is train them, right? Obviously, I can't get into specific cases, but my goal is to train them because right now they really don't have a resource. They're relying on outside agencies and it's costing thousands and thousands of dollars per case. And when I first thought of this initiative, my goal was to bring it in in -house and to be able to help as many of them as possible. So,

I'm trying to be cost effective and get it to as many agencies as possible. There's about 18 ,000 agencies in the United States. And my goal is to train at least one officer per agency. And yeah, so I, I, this is not a theory, you know, theory, what I teach them. We, we get into it. We work examples from my family and we work their cases if they have them and, and get them started.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

And we just, yeah, it's, it's, let's get moving. They, I want to unleash the power of it and let them see what it can really do. And when, once you know, you know, if you've been through it, once you see it, there's a lady in my town and she was asking me, she said, I don't know. I just did my ancestry and it just, it just doesn't look right. You know, I don't know these people. And she opened it. I said, well, let's take a look. And she opened up the computer. And as soon as I saw, I saw, I knew I saw a half sibling.

And I said, oh, so who are these people? And she said, I have no idea. And I said in my head, I'm like, oh boy. And she said what? Because she said she saw my eyes. And so then within literally a couple of hours, I had her whole family tree and everything. And so it's just amazing. I cannot, I'm so effusive just about how amazing it is. And they just need to be doing more of it.

Have you been contacted by people in the public that have cold faces that are looking to track somebody down or figure out a death or? I have. In fact, I have one case now where the case has been cold. It's a lady's father. And from what she told me, they have DNA. And so I respectfully reached out to the agency and I said, look, here's who I am. Here's what I do.

ponded to her since I believe:

Well, I would have to say it's kind of automatic. So I would be hard pressed to figure out what, because I'm, you know, I'm looking for, in some cases, bad guys, or I'm looking to identify a deceased person. I'm just looking for possibilities. And I guess it comes natural, but along with a lot of intuition too, when you look at something and you just get a hunch and trying to manage it, people like to go down rabbit holes and.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

They may think it's somebody just because they lived in a particular area, which could be a possibility, but trying to keep a narrow focus while not wasting time, but also not excluding any possibility. But it's still my gut. It's still my gut. I feel like I get on a trail and then I work it and then I'm like, okay. And then I go somewhere else. And that's just the way the police work goes. Absolutely. It takes a certain type of individual to be a successful detective. Absolutely.

Well, and I just want to add to that point, you know, the cop in me is a skeptic, so I don't take anything at face value, right? And the big thing that we find in these genetic genealogy instances is that you cannot rely on the records and you cannot rely on what people tell you. I assume the negative until I can prove it. So going back to your own DNA drama.

Are you approaching this as both a detective and as someone who's wanting to find out the history of their family? Or what's your approach as you start to make this discovery and what did you do with it?

Wow, that's kind of a loaded question. I think it's kind of a double edged sword for me because I didn't have a father in my life. And I can tell you when I realized I literally woke up in the middle of the night, I was in bed and I sat straight up and I said, I have a dad, right? I have a dad that wants me and this is so exciting. And then to be on the journey to find him because I'm this.

big bad cop, right? I'm supposed to be this tough person that doesn't have any emotions and I'm supposed to be able to solve anything. But at the same time, I have this huge hole in me that I try to explain to people that I don't want to feel this way. And I have this incessant need to get all the information. And then at the same time, as I went through this over the years, it was worse for me, I was my own worst critic because in the beginning, I couldn't figure it out.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

And so I got down on myself and people are not very cooperative and I wish they would be more cooperative because there's the emotional toll and there's the informational toll and people just don't know. So I can't help myself investigating. I can spend hours and hours and hours and I'm still, because I've got so many people in my family, I got so many people I'm looking for. It just doesn't stop. So there's, there's both sides. I'm.

In a sense, I'm my own victim and then I'm being my cop, right? So I'm doing both. Have you connected with anyone that you've been able to talk to and get a little bit more information about your history? Oh, absolutely. On my paternal grandfather's side, the family has been wonderful. On the, I guess, first or second cousin side, but my half aunt, not so much. Man, I blew her world apart when...

All of this came to light. And then on my paternal grandmother side, there's just a lot of lying, lying and hiding. I've discovered just so many, so many stories. It's just more rampant than people imagine. And then I think my wins mostly come in being able to help other people find their...

family, right? But no, I've tracked it all and it's been so interesting, right? Now I'm going to go, I've got some German relatives and things and it's just like the ancestry commercial. I thought I was one thing and now I'm totally something else. And I went to Germany a long time ago and now I want to go back because I didn't go to the right place. And it's just been, it's been very rewarding and I'm out to fifth, eighth cousins and yeah, I'm going as far back as I can go.

had been talking to me since:

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

So I don't know if the half siblings were looking for me per se, right? Obviously they were looking for my mom, but maybe they were looking to see if there were any other children out there. And are these, as you mentioned, your mother had told you that she had given a couple of kids up. The half siblings, are they on your mom's side and your dad's side, or how does that break down? They're just on my mom's side. I don't believe there are half siblings on my dad's side.

There's so many people. I had to look at the tree and, and it's crazy. It's crazy. Have you been able to determine why your, your mom said your father was Burke and it's not Burke? Well, I firmly believe that. So I was supposedly born premature. Well, obviously not. My mom just recently passed in April and she had dementia for a long time, which was really a hindrance. Finding this out.

I believe it was given to me to continue my help to help other people, but it really also smoothed over my mother's relationship. And I learned why she did what she did because she always used to say to me, I don't understand why my dad doesn't love me and he must have known. So I believe she was looking for that father figure or some type of whatever and just got herself into situations. She...

She was an alcoholic. It just made a lot of sense. I always say my mom is not or was not such a nice person, but she always told the truth. And so she went to court and she really tried to enforce that relationship with Burke. And so I really believe that she felt he was my dad, obviously with me supposedly being born premature. It really explains the life. Like the gal that I was just telling you about, I just found her father the other day.

She doesn't even speak to her mom. She calls her her birthing person. And when we found this out, it just made sense because she didn't understand why her mom wouldn't give her her dad's name and just the behavior. Like it really answers so many questions. So while it's really tough, I find it's also really helpful. It gives you a little more empathy or I don't know. Were you able to discuss any of this with your mother before she got ill?

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

No, she had dementia for about six or seven years and right before I found all this out. And so now I tell her, you better talk to grandma up there. You know, like surprise, surprise, send me a sign. You know? Yeah. Yeah. What have you been able to discover about your mom's real father, your mom's birth father?

Well, that's interesting that you say that because the first match that I had when we started trying to figure this out, she's been very uncooperative. And when I was able to determine that he was in fact my mom's father, I was asking her for information, you know, just the things, not even medical, but like, was he funny? Was he a businessman? What was he like? You know, I saw he's very handsome, but I asked her, I said,

you know, what, what can you tell me? And she got really angry with me. This was, you know, in a message and she got really angry and said, you know, I've done all this work on the family and I'm just supposed to hand it over to you. And I said, and I'm supposed to be just satisfied with looking at the date of birth and the date of death on a tombstone picture. And that's all I got. And so it's on my list, right? It's, as I mentioned, I've, I've got so many relatives that it's all, it's on my list. Yeah.

Yeah. So when you think about family today, who comes to mind? Oh, that's another hard question. For so long, because it was just my mom and I, really, my friends became my family. And we used to have conversations and I would say, I don't want to put this responsibility on you, but I don't have anybody else. And so would you please, you know, my, my girlfriends were like my sisters and things like that.

But then as my mom went through this and as some things that have happened to me lately, they weren't there like I thought they should be. And some of my DNA family have been very receptive. Like I thought it was interesting about the moving because I've thought of that. I have a lot of family in the Chicago and Wisconsin area. And I thought, do I need to do that? Is that, is that what I need? It is a good question, but then you go back to.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

What is that reception going to be like? Like, is it really blood or is it the people that just stand up for you and are going to be there for you? So I think, I think the family is what you make it and they make it. Yeah. I agree with you. Yes. Well, I think we're, we're totally on the same page. I mean, I've always been really close with, with my family, but, you know, Kendall didn't have too much family, you know, growing up. So then of course my family became his family. And then we moved to California for nine years and then.

those people became family. And then we discover, you know, this family on the East coast. I mean, I don't, I think we both got good enough instincts that I wouldn't have said immediately, oh, we've got to move there. So you can get to know your family if there were like a ton of red flags and a lot of like, whoa. So, I mean, is it for everybody? Absolutely not. You know, but we'd already moved halfway across the country once. So why not move all the way across the country and see what it's like. And I'll tell you, I mean, we don't see.

His family, as much as I think we thought we would have, you know, four years ago, but you know, we're living on the East coast. It's beautiful. We're both busy with work and our critters. And I don't think I saw some of my extended family and stuff, even when we were living, you know, in St. Louis as much as you'd like to. But I think it's, it's comfortable for him to be here close to his dad. Now that his dad's not really well, just to be physically close. Like if something were to happen that we could be there in a heartbeat.

You know, but again, not necessarily for everybody. And that's part of the reason why we're doing this is like, we know we didn't do everything the right way. And there are, you know, people are making these discoveries every single day. I mean, I'm on several Facebook groups, DNA detectives and things like that. And every day you see something and it's like, yeah, there are the great stories. And then there's also the heartbreaking ones too. You know, it is, you know, I think, I think that's so great that you were able to do that. And I think for me, the sense is.

Now, at least I know I have someone out there because for me, it was always just me and my mom. And especially with her passing, it's like that, that cord is gone, right? And I'm essentially by myself. So I think just knowing that somebody is there makes it easier. But I also want to talk about, you know, the things you're, you're mentioning the groups and I tell people, I said, this is almost an epidemic. The numbers are just, you know, people say, oh, I know my family and this, I said, mm hmm. Okay. Let's, you know.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

let's whip out the DNA, okay? And I think, you know, part of it is I also want to talk, right? I want to be an arm for law enforcement and I want to help victims and people find their family. But I also want to be an advocate to speak to these family members because the moms, right? You think about the moms, like my mom with the adoption, she felt it was a narcissism, but I don't think that's a fair thing. But she didn't want to feel guilty, right? She didn't want to revisit that.

But at the same time, I'm not a parent, go figure. I'm not a parent, but I believe as a parent, you have a responsibility to put the child first. And it really bothers me. I don't like liars, haven't been a cop. I don't like liars to begin with. I was talking to a friend about Burke, who's not my dad. But the fact that, you know, he was found as a court, you know, they got married and he was found for the court to be my father. And he just couldn't even be a decent.

man and have something to do with me. So I hated him for a while. But when I see these stories, I just want to reach out to the mom and say, get over yourself. You have a child here that it, it almost reverts you to a two year old. Like I said, you have this huge hole and you can't help it. And the parents need to get it off of themselves and just talk to the child and be cognizant of what the child needs. Because the child didn't sleep with anybody. The child didn't do this.

And it's the child that needs the parent to be the parent, unfortunately. And that would be so wonderful if that could happen more than it seems to be happening. You're preaching to the converted. Yeah. And yes, I couldn't have said it any better. So thank you for saying that. And I think, you know, we talked a little bit about before we started the episode, how important education is.

And you mentioned like, this is almost like an epidemic. It's happened all the time. What advice do you have? What bits of education can you share for those who are beginning this journey on a rough patch on this journey? Oh man, there's a lot. Well, the first thing, if I could say like as a public service announcement, and I know that there's some speculation about, I could get into a whole thing about privacy, right? I say anybody can get your DNA anytime, anywhere, right? They just need to walk behind you. But I ask for people that have tested.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

because Family Tree DNA, FTDNA and GEDmatch are cooperating with law enforcement to please consider uploading your DNA over there so that it can be of help. If you feel comfortable with opting in, that would be fabulous. And for the people that are just the DNA relatives, you know, that are lucky to not have any drama, again, please think of the poor person.

that just wants the answers. The percentage of people that I've seen, like we just want to know who we are and we just, you know, maybe need some medical. We just want to confirm all this. So please just talk to the person, give the answers that even at a minimum, just put yourself in the other person's shoes. And there are resources out there. People have classes, people can help you. We need more counselors to deal with the trauma from this.

We need more recognition of what it's actually causing and it's your DNA. This is your truth. And you need to speak your truth about what you need and feel comfortable in doing that. It's not your, you know, your nobody's secret, right? So I don't care. I let everything loose and I'm not hiding anything because it's me and it's my story to tell. Well, kudos to you for taking your expertise.

as a law enforcement officer and helping people move forward with their lives and helping the law enforcement community advance. You know, now that we've got this amazing technology, and as you said, it can save hundreds of the work hours, you know, and get to solving cases so much faster. So it's great to see that happening and you being a part of it. Thank you so much. And I really appreciate the opportunity to talk about my story and if anything that I can do to help anybody else.

I really appreciate what you're doing. Absolutely. Yes. And we'll definitely be checking in to see how your journey is advancing. And you know, maybe if we have a couple of interesting questions, we can pose them to you and you can share your expertise. Absolutely. Absolutely. Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for joining us, Christine. This has been a real pleasure. Thank you. Good to see you. Thank you everybody. Bye. Bye.

Corey & Kendall Stulce (:

This is the Family Twist podcast hosted by Kendall and Corey Stulce with original music by Cosmic Afterthoughts and produced by Outpost Productions and presented by Savoir Fair Marketing Communications. Have a story you wanna share? Visit FamilyTwistPodcast .com. All our social media links are there as well.




More from YouTube