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As genetic testing pins down paternity issues, the definition of fatherhood gets murkier.

It began, as all marriages must, with trust and hope, and ended, as all too many do, in resentment and suspicion. Their story begins in 1983, when Ron and Anne met through a mutual friend in college and agreed to go out on a date.

"We didn't see eye to eye on a lot of things," Ron recalls. "We weren't compatible at the time. She was very stubborn, very opinionated." They both seemed to sense it. The date didn't amount to anything, and the two went their separate ways. Anne married the following year; Ron continued to play the field, dating a number of women, though none seriously.

Four years later, tragedy brought Ron and Anne together again at a small Catholic church in east Denver, where they were both attending the funeral of their college matchmaker.

Joe Forkan

The couple talked, catching each other up on the gap in time since they'd parted. Anne's marriage hadn't lasted. Her husband had had a relationship with drugs that she couldn't compete with, and so they'd divorced after only a couple of years. Yet Ron noticed that the marriage -- or something -- had provoked a change in her. "She seemed to be a different person," he says. "We didn't clash like before. She was very cordial and nice, not as bullheaded as before."

After the reunion, Ron remembers, "she called me on a number of occasions, and about two weeks later we started dating. I allowed myself to get caught." They attended movies, concerts, plays. "At the time, I wanted to be married, and she wanted to be married, too. With the change in attitude, I thought it might work," he says. The ceremony was held in June 1988.

They didn't discuss children, although it was implied that the family would grow. Anne already had a daughter from her first marriage. Ron came from a large family, fifth out of eight children. "I never wanted a big family," he says. "But some kids, sure." He felt strongly that his job as the manager of a convenience store was not stable enough to support a brood just yet. On good nights, they would discuss names of their future children. He wanted a boy to call Ronald; she joked that it sounded too old-fashioned.

It wasn't long, though, before the good nights became fewer and farther apart. Ron says the tension started when Anne began going out to clubs and bars without him and staying out later than was appropriate for a married woman. He says that when he complained, she grew defensive. "You're not my dad," she'd say. "You can't tell me what to do." Sometimes she wouldn't return until four or five in the morning. (Anne declined to be interviewed for this story. Her name and her husband's name were changed to protect their family's privacy. Last week, at the request of Anne's attorney, Edra Pollin, the couple's court file was sealed. )

They had mutual friends, particularly at their church, and people talked. Ron knew that his wife seemed to run into a particular acquaintance at the clubs an awful lot, and he heard the rumors that the friendship between Anne and the other man was more than casual.

Finally, Ron says, one night in November 1990, he confronted Anne after she'd defended the man a little too vehemently in an argument. "I said, 'Baby, I need to talk to this guy myself.'" He went to the man's house and waited, and when the man finally came home, Ron asked him straight up: Are you sleeping with my wife? The man denied it, and the two never saw each other again.

Anne became pregnant in the summer of 1990, and the following March, a daughter was born. Throughout the pregnancy, Ron says, "she was telling me that the child was mine, and so I eventually decided she was telling the truth."

At the birth, he held the baby, still wet from the womb, and when the doctor asked him to cut the umbilicus, he grasped the child's legs with one hand and cut the cord with the other. "It was truly amazing," he says. "Life itself."


The Analytical Genetic Testing Center sits in the far back corner of a difficult-to-find southeast Denver business park, one of those featureless commercial strips that seem to be actively seeking anonymity. It is surrounded by generic-sounding businesses with names such as Client Systems. "We don't necessarily like to advertise where we are," says Nancy Schanfield, the center's administrator.

A plaque in the office's tiny waiting area, awarded by the Crime Laboratory Proficiency Testing Program, indicates that the Analytical Genetic Testing Center is "Dedicated to Accuracy, Precision and Specificity." A posted list of the center's clients shows a handful of Colorado counties, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the San Francisco Crime Lab and the Dubai police.

Inside, beyond a couple of small offices and a conference room, the lab opens up into a single white room that seems somehow both too small and too uncluttered for the emotionally vast work that goes on there. One section of the space is devoted to forensic testing -- the evaluation of genetic samples from crime scenes. The rest of the space is devoted to figuring out who a child's parents are.

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