The genetic sample sent last year by Washington resident Kelli Rowlette revealed a DNA match not to her own father, but to reproductive specialist Dr. Gerald E. Mortimer.
Rowlette later discovered that Dr. Mortimer used his own semen to impregnate her mother and is now suing the Idaho Falls retired doctor, alleging medical negligence, battery, and fraud.
According to the complaint, the doctor knowingly swapped in his own semen sample after Rowlette’s now-divorced parents, Sally Ashby and Howard Fowler, struggled with getting pregnant and turned to Mortimer for help in the early 1980s.
At the time, Mortimer diagnosed Ashby with having a tipped uterus, while her husband was diagnosed with a low sperm count, court documents revealed.
For about three months, Mortimer then allegedly inseminated Ashby with his own semen, falsely stating that he’d given her a mixture of her husband’s sperm with matching donors.
The couple’s ideal match was a college student—more than six feet tall, with brown hair and blue eyes, favoring the genes of Fowler. In August 1980, Ashby became pregnant and, according to the lawsuit, Mortimer, the baby’s biological father delivered her nine months later.
After Kelli’s birth, Ashby continued to visit Dr. Mortimer for reproductive care. She and Fowler later conceived a son without medical assistance.
But when Ashby revealed to Mortimer that her family was moving nearly 3,000 miles to Washington state, the doctor “cried,” the lawsuit recalls.
“Dr. Mortimer knew Kelli Rowlette was his biological daughter but did not disclose this to Ms. Ashby or Mr. Fowler,” the complaint explains. “Dr. Mortimer fraudulently and knowingly concealed his use of his own genetic material in the Procedure.”
Nearly 30 years later, Rowlette checked her notifications on Ancestry.com and found a match for Dr. Mortimer as her father. She believed the results were flawed and was “disappointed,” per court documents. But when she informed her parents, they were all too familiar with the doctor’s name.
After investigating the account, the parents were “devastated,” the lawsuit states. The estranged couple allegedly “struggled to cope with their own anguish and had difficulty contemplating the torment the discovery would cause their daughter when she found out.”
The twisted story came to a climax last October, when Rowlette found her birth certificate with Dr. Mortimer’s signature on it. She was was “horrified,” the lawsuit states, and contacted her parents in a “panic” to discuss the connection.
A similar lawsuit was filed last year against Indiana Dr. Donald Cline, who reportedly swapped donor’s semen samples for his own nearly 50 times. Criminal charges were filed against him, but he ended up with no jail time.