Finding A Lost Identity — With DNA Testing

Sep 21, 2015 | Forensic DNA Testing, Science and Technology

In Jacksonville, Florida, a man was beaten and left for dead outside a Burger King in 2004, according to WJXT. For the last 11 years, he’s been wandering through life without any idea of who he is. It took time, detective work, and DNA testing, and now finally he is in touch with his real family.
Imagine waking up tomorrow in a strange place with no idea of who you are. You have no ID, and no one recognizes you. We’ve seen such story lines on TV, but in an hour, everything is back to normal. In this man’s case, he woke up in a hospital, after being beaten nearly to death, and left by a dumpster. He suffers from what doctors diagnosed as retrograde amnesia. It took much longer that an hour, and still today, it’s not over yet.
He called himself Benjamin Kyle, BK for short. With no identification, he struggled to fulfill his basic needs. He couldn’t be accepted at local shelters, he couldn’t get a job, and he couldn’t qualify for government benefits. BK appeared on local and national television shows, hoping that someone would recognize him and solve the mystery. No one came forward. People in Jacksonville stepped forward, and one restaurant owner gave him a job, and a place to live, in 2011.
CeCe Moore, a Genetic Genealogist, also saw BK’s story and came to his aid. She formed a team, and began the quest to find BK’s relatives with the use of DNA technology. Moore had worked primarily with adoption-related searches, for people who wanted to identify their birth families.
Moore and the team worked for two and a half years, searching available DNA databases, attempting to find a match to BK’s DNA. Eventually, they found a match.
DNA Diagnostics Center (DDC) is an industry leader in DNA paternity testing, where fathers, mothers, and children come forward for DNA paternity testing. But the Center also receives calls every day from mothers asking, “Can you help me find my babies father?” People hear about “DNA databases” and think that perhaps their child can submit a DNA sample and compare it to fathers in a database, to find a match. No such database exists.
There are databases like CODIS, developed by the federal government for the primary use of  cataloging convicted criminals, but these cannot be accessed by the public in search of a relative. Other privately held DNA information, like that at DDC,  is stored securely and is proprietary. The profiles from past tested parties cannot be shared without the consent of the tested parties.
In BK’s case, he now knows that he has relatives in Indiana, and plans to meet them soon. He is keeping the reunion quiet, out of respect for his family’s wishes. He plans to stay in Jacksonville, where he has created a circle of friends, and want to repay those that have been so generous to him for the past decade. He thanked his friends via Facebook, where you can read about his long, and very public experience.


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