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September 22, 2020 29 mins

How does Becky plan to uncover her Paternal Lineage? With help from two DNA and genetic experts, we sink our teeth into the reality of trying to track down a parent with limited information. Fortunately, with the DNA kits submitted by Diane's brother, James Fredrickson, and Becky, we have the first piece of the puzzle to find Becky's biological dad.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
I was worrying, Eugene. I don't remember the time. I
think it was morning, but I don't remember j N.
And do you wonder about what the day was like
that you came into this world? I do. I mean,
I wonder. I've heard she was induced, but I'm not
really sure. So I wonder what it was like. Was
she in her jail cell and her water broke and

(00:24):
she was rushed to the hospital, or you know, was
it planned for that day? And then, you know, I
wonder what it was like after I was born, as
she was showing me off and you know that sort
of stuff. It's a little strange to me. But I'm
wondering being taken away from her, how did that go?
Because I remember when when I gave my son to

(00:44):
the nurse. It broke me. You know that that was
that was a moment of just pain, sheer pain. But
I knew he was going somewhere where he would be,
you know, well, taken care of and loved. And I
chose that family. So it's a little bit different than Diane,
where she didn't get to choose the family, and you know,
she didn't have a say in any of it. In
no way am I saying she's a victim. I'm just

(01:05):
saying that it might have been hard on her, but
with her mental state, it may not have been anything
to her. I guess that's kind of what I'm curious
is how did she handle it but she just like, okay,
take my kid, or was it hard for her? Okay?
I just have one more question, is that Okay, when
you reached out to Diane and asked her about what

(01:29):
was that like bringing me into the world, what was
her answer? She was actually like it was the best
thing in the world, you know, and and how she
was so happy and she got to hold me and
how much she loved me. And she didn't say anything
about having to hand me over or me being taken
away or anything like that. Um, it was just that

(01:49):
she got to hold me for a very long time.
And I don't know. It's still kind of really keeps
me out a little bit. I don't know. It's just
really strange to be born from a person that you
cannot relate to, you know, it's it's that's my biological mother.
But I don't understand her at all. I don't ever
want to be here. I was about eight years old

(02:21):
when my adopted mom started telling me about my biological mom,
about how she had done bad things, and I continued
to ask and pester her throughout, you know, the next
three years, and she finally got to the point where
she just decided, you know, you're not old enough to
know this is something that's awful. I don't ever want
to tell you. In a sense as a little kid,

(02:41):
it was more curiosity than anything. I was frustrated with
her her and I was at a little angry that
she wouldn't tell me um, and so I really just
wanted to know. And then once I got that in
my head that I wanted to know that they were,
you know, who she was, because my mom had given
me a little tidbits, you know, that she was bad,

(03:01):
that she was in jail, that all this stuff, and
I wanted to know why. So it was more frustrating,
and I was a little bit angry when she wouldn't
tell me, And then my brain went to work of
how can I find out on my own, and of
course by tricking her babysitter, Becky did finally find out
who her mother was. Later, after watching Small Sacrifices, Eric
Mason was one of the first people to help Becky

(03:24):
bring her story to the press, and has a unique
insight into Becky's reasons for wanting her story out into
the world. Yeah. Well, I think all of us have
family secrets. We all have that crazy uncle, we all
have something that we don't want to share with the
rest of the world. And so as a story that

(03:47):
one day Becky living in ben is watching Faara Fawcet
in the movie Small Sacrifices on television and thinking to herself, Oh,
my god, that is my mother. That in that sense,
we all have to come to terms with what came
before us and who came before us, and their crimes

(04:12):
or their contributions, and to make peace with all of
it is to understand ourselves a whole lot more. And
so you know, the journey that we are all on
is to understand why. And with Rebecca Wow, she has
a lot of it that she can read about what
watch and that she has kind of a front row

(04:35):
seat to this very infamous person and in so doing
being able to talk about it in the magazine and
on and on Oprah, being able to talk about it,
and everyone think to themselves, you know what, I think
I can deal with my past a little bit better too.
You know, it's been surprising to me, Eric, is that

(04:57):
when I've been working on this case of people attached
to the case that worked with the children, anybody who's
worked with Christie or Danny or came in contact with
the deceased, Gerald told me, why is this? Why does
anybody care about becky story? She didn't get shocked, like
that's kind of surprising to me, Like what is she

(05:19):
really suffering from? She was raised by a fabulous family.
Why why do this big quest? Is she just seeking fame? Yeah,
that's a good point. I mean when the woman came
to me who was in the film festival from Bend
and said, do you want to meet Diana Hounced daughter,
I was like, oh my god, could this even be true?

(05:42):
And I don't think she really was per se looking
for that. I think she was searching for the understanding
of her own life. And I think she saw journalism
and getting the story out there as a way to
maybe find the other missing pieces of the puzzle. And
so sort of crying out to the universe is not

(06:03):
such a bad thing. I mean, I think in some
ways it's therapeutic, and for her, I think the point
of the story is this is the the amazing control
part of the experiment is she was raised in the
absolute best surroundings environment, place to live, resources from parents,

(06:24):
and yet she felt this toe from the water of
that genetics, and it still was pulling on her and
still and controlling her, even from in some ways from
a prison in California. There was this element there that
was just really strong, this current. And to be able

(06:48):
to fight that current, you really have to understand and
do your work to figure out how to overcome it.
When we contacted Diane Downs about this podcast, she responded
with a short and somewhat strange letter claiming that Becky
was not her biological daughter. And even more odd was
the fact that she included several Q tips and closed

(07:09):
in a small plastic bag inside an envelope with the
words try it glued to the front, presumably saturated with
her saliva, so that we could have her DNA and
Becky's quest to find out more about her family lineage
DNA is all she really has to start with. We
enlisted the help of a DNA detective to help with
the process, but first we spoke to Dr Greg hamikin

(07:32):
a DNA expert to learn a bit about the process
and what to expect. You know what, my mother told
me not to talk about myself. I violated that. Tell
your mom you have permission to brag. I started about
twenty something years ago doing forensic work, got into forensics

(07:56):
really teaching. I started using a murder scenario with the
d n A. But then I met Calvin Johnson, who
was a guy who got out through DNA through d
Innocence Project in New York. He was released near where
I was teaching in Georgia. He done seventeen years in prison,
and he's on the radio talking and he they asked him,

(08:18):
how do you feel about the criminal justice system now?
And he said, you gotta have laws. He's not better.
He's just a really great guy and he believes in
the system still after what he's been through. So we
divided into school and as he was speaking to my students,
I wrote chapter one of Exits to Freedom, which became
his autobiography. After that book in I started getting casework

(08:44):
because pupil fought, well, if I can, you know, write
about it, maybe I could help outwards in cases. I
started doing casework for free, helping out and then I testified,
came back to Georgia and I get started Georgia Innocence
Project and found that they were already some students doing
that at the law school. So I got on their
board as their DNA expert and we started working down there,

(09:07):
and I think gosh, and they worked on six cases
with people are wasonoring with them. When I was in
London working on a private case, I was doing research
on how they do things in Europe, and so I
got in touch with Amanda nazis Um team. She was
at trial at that point. I joined the team, got
a bunch of American experts to look at the case

(09:30):
along with Libby Johnson. She was doing the same thing
we could. We wrote a report at the court the
point could be accept it. She's convicted, and then I
just kept working on a case of the family for
about four years. That case really got so much press
attention and so many fans and people who hated her.
It was kind of like you know, o J case.

(09:53):
It was such a consurovership case. So that really kind
of thrust our little project much more in the limelight
for a while. And negative ways. I called you a
couple of weeks ago because I wanted to ask you
where to start with DNA because Becky and I are

(10:13):
on an interesting journey together and I have no knowledge
of DNA, and it's critical to the journey that Pecky
and I are going on. I am the biological daughter
of Diane Downs, and I am just curious about everything
with DNA. So Diane actually denies that I'm her biological daughter.

(10:36):
My original birth certificate actually says that she is my
birth mother. Dan has sent her DNA to the studio
so that we can, you know, try and match that.
But I'm actually really interested to going to search for
my biological father. Would that be something that we could
do with running my DNA through some system. We found

(10:56):
out that, due to Becky's ethnic background, is actually highly
likely that she'll be able to find a lot of
information through a commercial DNA service. There's good news in
that because the American genealogical databases are populated disproportionately with Caucasions,
whereas the criminal databases are not. It's just just the

(11:18):
opposite and the criminal databases, you know, the good news
for Caucasions who were looking for their families is you're
likely to get a lot of information from any of
the commercial genealogy companies. According to Dr Greg interestingly enough,
men often have a much easier time tracing the lineage
because that men you know usually gives their last name.

(11:40):
But no, you should be able to find out pretty
easily with the genetic test that you could send off
to any of the commercial stubs and they link to
all these great paper trails. There are lots of things
people are doing that would be through these ancestry records.
I don't think you're going to have a terrible problem
finding at least the lineage of both your parents. Dr

(12:01):
Gray continued to explain some of the technical aspects of
examining DNA, as well as the process itself and some
of the science behind it, but ultimately his suggestion was
that we contact a genealogist, someone whose job it is
to do a deep dive into the results provided by
a commercial DNA service and really trace the backgrounds and
family lines by using the results as a foundation and

(12:24):
researching beyond them. So we reached out to Michelle Leonard,
a self proclaimed DNA detective. I'm Michelle and I am
a professional genealogist, a DNA detective and author, a historian

(12:48):
and My main specialism is working with DNA testing in
order to identify unknown ancestors, so all sorts of unknown
ancestor MR reads mainly unknown parentage, so unknown parents, unknown grandparents.
But people will come to me with more distant unknown
ancestor mysteries as well, like unknown great and second great grandparents.

(13:11):
What I do is I marry up all my years
of genealogical expertise in creating and building family trees and
in living person tracing, and with my DNA know how
to try and identify these mystery ancestors. In general, people

(13:32):
will come to me because they've heard or maybe they've
seen something on TV, or they've read an article, or
they they've just found out that DNA testing can help
with their mystery. Some people come to me right at
the beginning, like I think Becky is, where they've not
yet done any testing. They don't know where they should test,

(13:52):
they don't know how to go about it. They've just
found out. They've got this idea that doing DNA testing
might solve their mystery, might help them find out who
their father was or who their grandfather was, that kind
of thing. Others will come to me after they've tested
and they don't know what to do with it, and
so they maybe google for a DNA expert, a DNA detective,

(14:13):
or a genetic genealogist, and they might hit upon me
and contact me. At that point, they might already have
been building perhaps a maternal tree or trees for the
lines that they know of, and they want to do
it themselves, but then they just hit a roadblock and
they can't get any further, and they're frustrated with it,
and they think, I need somebody with a bit more

(14:34):
expertise on this than I have, and then they'll come
to me at that point. One of the advantages of
knowing your family line is having an understanding of their
medical history. Becky has experienced some health problems in recent years,
and she believes that knowing who her father is will
help provide some insight not only where she comes from,
but also help establish a background on some of the

(14:55):
medical problems she may be genetically predisposed. To me only,
I just would like to find out who my biological
father is, not because my family life is disrupted or unhealthy.
Because my parents are amazing. I love them dearly, but
I'm just getting older. I have quite a bit of
health problems that are going on as I'm aging, and

(15:19):
I'm realizing that I never met my biological father, and
it was something that I kind of wanted to do.
Medical history is something important, then, yes, definitely. It's It's
like when you go to the doctor and they say,
you know, do you have family history of X Y Z?
I always have to put I adopted. I don't know.
And you can see there's a big part of Becky

(15:39):
that needs to know that some part of her comes
from something decent. Many many people have said that to me,
and they want to know what their medical history is,
and you know, I think everyone has a right to
know that as well. Yeah, And I mean, I really
just want to know where I come from. I want
to know just my background. I know my life now,
and I know my family and parents and and this

(16:01):
is all just beautiful and amazing, but I'd like to
know the other half of me, you know. I I
know Diane Downs is my biological mother, and that is
the half of me that I am not proud of,
and I would love to find the other half. So
when I was eighteen, I was able to order my
original birth certificate, and that was the real answer that was,

(16:23):
Oh my gosh, it's actually true. There's no denying it
at that point because Diane Downs, well Elizabeth Diane Downs
was listed as my biological mother, but there was no
mention of a father. And that's very common that there's
just a big blank for the father. Very common, you know,
an all time periods and in all places, really, And

(16:46):
I agree with what you're saying about the aspect of
taking back control in a sense um in terms of
what you can get from documents, that varies from state
to state, from country to country, that varies a lot.
What doesn't vary is the fact that whatever you might
get from adoption papers or from hearsay, from what somebody

(17:07):
may be able to tell you is simply something that
is very difficult to corroborate, in fact, impossible to corroborate
without that DNA evidence. Michelle's believe is that documents can
sometimes have false information, but DNA evidence is more or
less irrefutable. I always say that with this, while I

(17:27):
want to know everything that it's possible to know about
the adoption papers and the hearsay evidence, I always follow
the DNA. Always put the DNA first, and I don't
let that other evidence, the documentary evidence, or the hearsay evidence,
cloud my judgment and lead to confirmation bias because that

(17:47):
information can always be wrong or falsely given. The DNA, however,
if followed correctly, will lead to the truth. And you'll
hear people say a lot things like DNA doesn't lie,
human beings do. And while that is very generally true,
it's also quite an overused and oversimplified saying because a
DNA results on their own can be misinterpreted at times,

(18:10):
in that if you don't know what you're doing with them,
and you're trying to find an unknown father, you could
misinterpret the DNA matches and end up identifying the wrong
man or several wrong men. I've seen that happen before
tester is looking for answers, they hit upon someone with
a similar name to one given in an adoption document,
or they perhaps message a match who says, oh, I

(18:32):
think it could be my dad's cousin, and people get
taken along in the wave of that, and when somebody
who understands the DNA looks at it properly realizes that
the DNA doesn't support that conclusion of it being that man.
So it's a bit more complicated than simply saying DNA
will give you the truth. DNA doesn't lie. That is true,

(18:52):
but at the same time, it has to be worked
with correctly in order to get to the correct answer.
DNA is a very scientific way of going about a
very emotional process. There's no denying that your clients and
Becky here are absolutely going to be subjected to strong
emotions about this. And then also there's questions about when

(19:14):
you find Becky's father, what do we do with that information?
Because I've read different reports from Diane downs herself where
she has said the father knows he's the father, he's
a dear friend of mine, and so there's that and
the reports, and then Becky's heard other things. Oh, there's
so many stories circling around my biological father. Um. I've

(19:37):
heard that he doesn't know that he's the father. I've
heard that he has fought for me when I was
born to keep custody. I heard that he was a
reporter during the case. I also heard that he was
worked at the mail office with Diane. And then I
also heard it was just some guy that was a
husband of her selmate. So mean, there's just so many stories.

(20:01):
I would really love to just find that one answer.
And there's also the possibility that he's aware of who
he is and simply doesn't have any desire to be involved.
That's something that I am worried about too, because I
have been so out there, you know, I've been open
about who I am, and if he had wanted to

(20:22):
contact me, I've been in the media for ten years now,
you know, So why hasn't he My fear is that
maybe he has passed away, or he doesn't want to
be found, or he just doesn't know. It's a very
tough thing to do, and you have to go into
an understanding that it's going to bring up an awful
lot of emotion. You have to have a good support

(20:44):
network on hand, and you might want to even consider
professional support, counseling and that kind of thing to help
through the process in terms of when you get to
that point, if you get to that point, because not
all cases are solvable, or at least not all cases
are immediately solvable. Some take weeks, some take months, some

(21:05):
take years, and depending on the ethnicity of the man
in question, sometimes there are some cases that will take years.
Yet because if he's of an ethnicity say that there
isn't a society that tends to d N a test,
Then that makes life a lot more difficult, because if
you don't have the matches to work with, you can't
identify the man on the end of it. But having

(21:26):
said all that, if you get to that point you
identify a person, first off, you might have a number
of candidates. You know, the DNA might be pointing to
a particular family, say, but there might be three brothers,
or you might only be able to say, well, it's
one of these brothers, or it's one of their first cousins,
it's one of these five men, for instance. And the

(21:48):
only way to get to the bottom of which one
of the five is is target testing. On those lines,
anyone who DNA tests, they can find shocks and surprises.
They can find some close ancestors aren't who they believe
them to be, So for instance, finding out your father
is not your father, or your grandfather wasn't your grandfather.
These things can happen. Also, they might find that they

(22:11):
have close relatives they didn't know existed, like say Becky
testing and showing up on somebody's list. She could be
a close relative, half sibling of first cousin they never
knew existed. So in terms of contacting people, in most
cases you're going to have several candidates and you might
have to narrow things down to the right one. But
if you do know exactly who it is, then there

(22:33):
are a number of prevailing ideas on who should make
the contact and how that contact should be made. It's
clear that for Becky this whole process is going to
be extremely emotional. It's not only her own discoveries that
she's concerned about, but also the effect it might have

(22:55):
on the people who raised her and took care of her. Also,
at this point, Becky's dad could be whatever she imagines
him to be, but once she knows, whatever fantasy or
vision she has might be crushed. There's so many aspects
to it that, you know, I don't want to hurt
my adoptive parents because I do love them. And then
there's the fact that I am on this journey that

(23:18):
I never thought I was going to go on. I
found Diane and I didn't want to know anymore. And
now there's this search for finding in the other half.
And I've always been able just to pretend that my
biological dad's an amazing person that he loves me and
that I don't know, some great person that hasn't done
anything wrong and as a positive person in society. But

(23:38):
the reality is I don't know, and he may not
be a positive person. He may not be the person
that I thought he was my whole life. Absolutely. Yeah,
as I say that, this is not a comfortable thing
to do, and it's not an easy thing to do,
and it can be emotionally training, and there can be
times where client has to step back and you know,

(24:00):
this is taking over my life, and um, I need
to break from it for a while. And I think
anyone if they get to that point, then they need
to take that break from it if they're getting scared
about getting close for the truth and things like that.
And that's a really really important point when you're doing
something like this. It's not just about identifying someone. It's

(24:22):
a whole range of emotions and how that person is
feeling at any given point in the process is extremely
important and has to be taken on board. And I
completely understand what Becky is saying about having this fantasy
about this great person in society that while she doesn't
know that can remain intact, but at the same time,

(24:44):
there's that knowing away because of not knowing. Clients who
have found out things about their birth parents that they
didn't expect and that they found very tough to deal
with that because they had built up an image of
the person that didn't exist in essence, that wasn't the reality.
And others, of course, have have been pleasantly surprised by

(25:07):
what they found. It's every single case is so individual,
and there's just no way to generalize about any of
this at all. Michelle explained to Becky in me in
depth about how the process will work. Once Becky sends
in her sample and receives her profile, Michelle will wait
through all of the potential DNA relatives and form a

(25:28):
complex family tree, gradually forming the branches that directly connect
Becky to anyone else in the database who may hold
clues to her father's identity. I want to have that
maternal side as reference, so you want the maternal tree,
but just as good, in fact, even better than having
the maternal tree as well is having a close maternal

(25:48):
relative test at the closest that you can test, and
when you're trying to solve a mystery, I want to
just be working on the pertinent matches, the paternal matches,
and if a maternal relatives can test even better because
everyone that matches them as well, I can just eliminate them.
I can put them in a group maternal and I
can just put them to one side. And the people

(26:09):
that don't match your uncle are the people I really
want to look at because they're going to be on
the paternal side. So actually your uncle testing is something
I would hugely recommend in this situation. Awesome, amazing, Thank
you Michelle for taking the time to speak with Becky
and I. Michelle, thank you so much. Thankfully James didn't

(26:31):
in fact sumit his DNA, so hopefully Michelle will in
fact be able to find a complete picture of Becky's
maternal line which will not only help begin the search
for her paternal lineage, but also provide Becky the conclusive
confirmation that she is in fact Diane's daughter, despite Diane's
recent claims to the contrary. All that remains now is
to wait for the results. It is that big web

(26:53):
where there's so many more things, and which is the
reason that I have never done DNA testing. I have
been a little bit worried about how deep it goes.
You know, it's who we need to know. You know
my heritage and you know what health problems run in
the family. But I've never been ready to find my
biological father until now. Well I can see how emotional

(27:16):
that I've I've been thinking about your process and how
we've were parallel and different in these ways. Like I
told Michelle, just the fact that I know who my
mom is and I've never had a fantasize about who
she she has, but she said it so well, like, yeah,
what do you do with that fantasy if it's not real?
If the father that you painted in your mind? I mean,

(27:39):
this is a big part of your structure and your history.
This is ingrained in and how you've been able to
formulate who you are as a person. Yeah, luckily I
had my adoptive parents. And I've always said, you know
that blood doesn't my blood in my veins, maybe somebody else's.
But we'll let me think about that. Which endics that

(28:00):
I have don't make me who I am. You know,
there's at that nature versus nurture concept. And I was
raised right. I was raised with good family ethics and
values and morals, and you know, I think my genetics
have played a part in a lot of the things
that I've done. But even if my biological father is

(28:24):
somebody that doesn't live up to that fantasy, I think
that I'll be okay because I have that strong family structure.
It's taken Becky a long time to reach the point
where she's prepared to accept the idea that her biological
father is out there. It could potentially be located thanks
to DNA, and what that will ultimately mean for her

(28:44):
sense of identity remains to be seen, along with the
uncertainty that he's even willing to cooperate or come forward.
On the next episode of Happy Face Presents, to Face
Diane Down's trial, we explore aspects of Diane's trial, as
some of her bizarre behavior leading up to and during
the trial, as well as a strange letter she wrote

(29:06):
to our attorney after it was all over. Ben Boland
is our executive producer, Melissa Moore is our co executive producer,
Maya Cole is our primary producer, Paul Decant is our
supervising producer, Sam T. Garning is our researcher, and Matt
Riddle is our story editor. Featured music by Dream Tent.

(29:27):
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