An artificial insemination clinic giving you the wrong sperm is bad -- your cousin giving you the wrong sperm on purpose is worse.
That's what one couple in Utah -- named Paula and Jeff -- found recently when they tested their DNA from their artificial insemination in 1992. It turns out that their daughter Ashley isn't Jeff's real baby at all. A clinic employee allegedly switched Jeff's sperm with his own.
It may sound like a bad accident, but the employee who is Ashley's father may have done this to potentially hundreds of other families as well, according to geneologist Cece Moore, who helped the couple unravel the twisted strains of DNA.
Back in the 1990s, Paula and Jeff went to Reproductive Medical Technologies, a clinic in Midvale associated with the University of Utah, for artificial insemination.
She eventually got pregnant with Ashley -- with what she thought was Jeff's sperm. Unbeknownst to her, the semen actually belonged to Thomas R. Lippert, a part-time employee who worked at the front desk and in the lab.
Paula recently discovered Jeff was not Ashley's father of Ashley when the family took genealogical tests.
Through Ancestry.com, she discovered "Cheryl," a genetic cousin of Ashley's.
Cheryl told the family about her relative Lippert and Paula immediately remembered seeing him at the clinic.
"He seemed friendly and was very proud of all those pictures. [It] almost seemed like a brag board up there, those were the children that he had helped people have," she told the station.
Lippert died in 1999, and, as a result, there is no immediate way to find out whether the sperm sample switch was committed more than once, Yahoo! News Australia reported.
However, Moore suspects that he may have made unwanted sperm donations to other unsuspecting parents.
She created a website called Was Your Child Fathered by Thomas Lippert? to help other families who suspect their children may have been fathered during his time at the clinic.
Lippert's past indiscretions go beyond sneaky sperm swapping.
Before working at the clinic, he served two years in prison for kidnapping a college co-ed for three weeks and using electroshock therapy on her to make her "fall in love with him," KUTV reported.
The allegations don't surprise Lippert's widow, Jean Lippert, who lives in Salt Lake City.
"I think, because Tom didn’t have any kids, he wanted to have a lot of kids out there," she told the Salt Lake City Tribune. She was aware he was a frequent sperm donor and believes "maybe he switched some samples so he could have more of his kids in the world."
The University of Utah released a statement that it has been investigating the allegations since last April. It has also offered to alleviate the distress of RTMI clients who were treated between 1988 through 1994 by offering professional genetic testing.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Thomas Lippert was related to Paula. The new version explains that Paula met a woman named Cheryl who was related to Lippert and explained his connection with the clinic.