Rebecca couldn’t wait to give her parents the Christmas gifts she’d bought them. However, the home DNA kits she thought would be a fun way for them to discover their family history would turn their lives upside down.
She’d thought that tracing their family roots would have been fun. She hoped it would give them a glimpse into their family history. She had no idea that when the DNA test did so that it would completely shatter her world view.
Rebecca Cartellone and her parents had a very good relationship with each other. She decided to buy the whole family, including herself a DNA testing kit as Christmas gifts. Rebecca thought that it would be something fun they could do together.
However, when she bought the kits she had no idea what turmoil was about to descend on them. Her simple gift would result in a massive scandal that would not only shock them but would shatter their ideas about their family.
Rebecca had been born in November 1994. She was the only child of Joseph and Jennifer Cartellone. Naturally, her parents doted on her as she grew up. Even as an adult her parents doted on her.
Rebecca had always had an interest in her family’s history and where they all came from. So at the age of twenty-four, she decided to buy the DNA kits so that they could all explore the family roots together, especially since her father’s side was Italian.
When she decided to buy the DNA kits, Rebecca had only ever intended for it to be a way to explore their family heritage. It was little more, in Rebecca’s mind, than a fun activity for them all to do together.
They all eagerly collected their samples, placed them in the provided containers, and sent them off to the labs to become tested. However, the Cartellones had no idea what awaited them as the results would tear apart their entire world.
Finally, after a two-month wait, the results finally arrived. It had seemed strange that it took so long for the results to arrive. So in February 2019 Rebecca, Joseph, and Jennifer eagerly opened the results to see what they would reveal.
According to the results, Rebecca and Jennifer unsurprisingly shared most of the same DNA as would be expected. However, what they didn’t expect was the results of her father’s DNA. According to the results, Rebecca and Joseph shared no DNA whatsoever.
In August 2019, Joseph spoke to Good Morning America about what happened and revealed what happened next. “When we looked at the results, what we immediately noticed was that there were no traces of Italian DNA in [Rebecca’s results] at all…”
Joseph added: “And her DNA matched my wife’s pretty closely.” However, there was more to come and the family had no idea what a storm of questions they were about to face.
Naturally, in the beginning, Joseph and his family believed that it had just been a simple mistake. As a result, the family contacted the company that created the DNA kits in the hopes of sorting out this mixup.
However, the company responded and said that due to the nature of the process and the rigorous testing that the samples underwent there would be almost no room for error. So what did that mean? Joseph knew he had to get to the bottom of what happened.
To clear up the obvious misunderstanding, Rebecca and Joseph decided to take a paternity test together. They waited anxiously for the results. Then they finally got the results they eagerly took a look only to have their worst nightmares confirmed.
Needless to say, Joseph was stunned and couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He never once questioned his wife’s faithfulness in their relationship. But something was amiss. However, that left only one possibility.
“My disbelief turned quickly to shock and then ultimately to anger that this could possibly be the case,” Joseph explained on Good Morning America.
The paternity test had confirmed that Rebecca and Joseph were not biologically connected at all. And these findings would ultimately reveal a scandal that went far beyond mere infidelity on Jennifer’s part. It was much, much worse.
Joseph grappled with the truth, not wanting to believe it. His mind wandered back to a period in 1993, just before Rebecca was conceived. Could it be possible? He pictured Jennifer’s doctor’s face in his mind, and his confusion became rage.
All the evidence told him that Rebecca wasn’t his biological child. It couldn’t be wrong — science doesn’t lie. But people do.
Joseph remembered 1993 well – it was a terrible year. He and Jennifer had been married for a while before they realized that something was very wrong.
After Jennifer had come clean with him, he had been supportive. He had told her that as long as they had each other, nothing else mattered. But that hadn’t been enough for her.
It was after Jennifer showed him the umpteenth negative pregnancy test that he conceded. They were having trouble conceiving, and he was terrified that the fault lay with him. But he would only find out that that was indeed the case 24 years later.
The couple decided to visit what was then named the Greater Cincinnati Institute for Reproductive Health. Jennifer was desperate to try.
After countless tests, the couple explored the options with their doctor. And, after much careful deliberation, they decided to try in vitro fertilization, or IVF.
The procedure would be vastly expensive, and they had no guarantee that it would even work. But at this point, Jennifer was willing to try anything. But something had gone horribly wrong.
As many will know, IVF involves an egg being fertilized with sperm in a lab environment before it is implanted inside a woman’s uterus – in this case, Jennifer’s.
And before the Cartellones underwent the procedure, they had been assured that Joseph’s sperm would be used to inseminate Jennifer’s eggs, meaning that he would be the biological father. So, just what had gone wrong?
Well, in light of Rebecca’s DNA results, it appears that sperm belonging to someone else was used during the IVF process. And the doctor had never imagined that he would be caught out.
Naturally, then, the Cartellone family felt as though they had been betrayed. Speaking at a news conference in August 2019, Joseph explained, “This has been extremely difficult for my family.”
Joseph continued, “I never would have imagined the Christmas gift of a home DNA kit would unveil this kind of abuse of our trust. For our daughter Rebecca, it’s even tougher. She’s experiencing significant emotional stress and confusion concerning her own identity.”
It appeared, too, that the results had also had a major impact on the man who had previously assumed he was Rebecca’s biological father.
Speaking candidly at the news conference, Joseph said, “It’s hard to explain the shock and agony when you find out that someone you love and care for — your own daughter — is not genetically related to you…”
“There’s a mix of anger, pain, and confusion that comes along with having to accept this and having to break the news to our family.”
And while speaking about Jennifer’s reaction, Joseph revealed, “She has to deal with the fact that this clinic… fertilized her eggs with a complete stranger’s sperm and placed them in her body…
She’s profoundly disappointed that she can no longer give birth to a child with both of our genetics… And that’s exactly why we sought the help of doctors… in the first place.”
So, after making their shocking discovery, Joseph and Jennifer filed a civil lawsuit against The Christ Hospital Health Network, Ovation Fertility Cincinnati — today called the Institute for Reproductive Health.
In particular, the Cartellones alleged that the original lab that had helped them conceive Rebecca had in fact used another man’s sperm. Of course, the case shocked the world.
The law firm representing the family, Peiffer Wolf Carr & Kane, specializes in taking on fertility clinics for alleged misconduct.
And while speaking at the Cartellones’ press conference, managing shareholder Joseph C. Peiffer said of the family’s case, “This is a massive betrayal of trust and an unthinkable break of trust.” After an investigation was conducted, an even more scandalous detail came to light.
According to the firm, moreover, only one of five people could be Rebecca’s biological father – with a doctor at The Christ Hospital allegedly among these individuals!
Crucially, The Christ Hospital had previously been associated with the Greater Cincinnati Institute for Reproductive Health, where Joseph and Jennifer had undergone IVF. But what had really happened?
“The defense should go through their records and find whose sperm they used to create the embryo… We have no idea if this was intentional or a horrifically negligent accident. We’ve asked, but we’ve been met with radio silence,” the Cartellones’ lawyer Adam Wolf told the Daily Mail.
In response, The Christ Hospital simply stated that it was “evaluating the allegations surrounding events alleged to have occurred in the early 1990s.”
The Cartellones’ suit continues to make its way through legal proceedings, although it may be a long journey to the truth.
And in the meantime, Rebecca can only wonder about who she is and whether she has further biological relatives – ones that she may not have known about if it hadn’t been for an at-home DNA test.