INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – An investigation into a retired fertility doctor reveals a potential “genetic disaster” after more people have stepped forward saying DNA tests prove he is their father, according to WPIX sister station WXIN.
Last May, WXIN shared stories of people who recently found siblings they never knew about, and they were all tied together by the same donor DNA from an Indianapolis fertility clinic.
Investigative reporter Angela Ganote listened to their concerns and began searching for the person responsible.
Dr. Donald L. Cline allegedly admitted to Ganote and the siblings that he used his own sperm to inseminate patients whenever a donor sample wasn’t available. Cline said he didn’t believe he was fathering children, but rather helping families who were devastated by being unable to conceive on their own.
The case turned criminal when two of the children sent complaints to the state attorney general’s office.
According to court documents, Cline denied ever using his own sperm, but DNA evidence links him to more than one of the siblings.
In September 2016, Cline was charged with two felony counts of obstruction of justice for statements he made to investigators.
Since WXIN’s stories aired, even more siblings have reached out to the station with DNA evidence proving Cline is their father.
The number of known children Cline is alleged to have fathered is up to 16.
And in at least one case, a family says Cline used his sample instead of their father’s.
At 34, Julie Manes found out that the man whom she thought was her biological father is not.
She knew her father’s blood type was very rare, and when she pulled up a blood chart she realized her mother and father never could have produced her.
She buried that in the back of her mind until recently when she heard about WXIN’s investigation.
Manes reached out to Jacoba Ballard, who first reached out to WXIN over a year ago.
"I came across a photo of Jacoba. Once I saw the photo I knew we had similarities just by looking at her,” Manes said.
Manes and Ballard shared their stories and learned they share the same blood type.
Manes took a DNA test, and the results were devastating for her and her parents. All these years, her mother believed Cline used her husband’s sperm.
"I really thought at the time I got pregnant I was really using my husband's sperm. I really didn't even think about when this story came out because I hadn't even told my daughter that I thought I was even pregnant with a donor's sperm,” said Dianna Kiesler, Mane’s mother.
Dr. Sue Ellen Braunlin was an anesthesiologist at St. Vincent Hospital right across the street from Cline's practice for many years.
She's now the co-president of the Indiana Religious Coalition for Reproductive Justice.
She says reproduction is prone to being exploited and believes the state has to get involved to find the true number of children Cline produced.
“If it is just 8 or 50 people it might not matter, but we need epidemiology to tell us that,” Braunlin said.
She adds if the numbers are greater and if Cline fathered even more children there is serious cause for concern.
“A lot of people in Indiana grow up in Indiana and stay in Indiana. We have a very localized concentration or passing recessive traits that are disadvantageous that people would choose to prevent if they could.”
Matt White, another donor sibling, says he recently moved back to Indiana only to realize he lives less than 10 minutes away from Cline, his biological father.
“It’s almost a recipe for a genetic disaster,” White said.
Manes, Ballard, and White say the charges for obstruction of justice are simply not enough, and more needs to be done.
But the prosecutor's office says they have charged Cline with the most serious crime they can, and they can't talk about any potential plea deal.
"A lot of people tell me that I wouldn't be here if he hadn't done what he did. That is true, but it's almost like telling a rape victim, ‘Well if your mother hadn't been raped you wouldn't be here.’ It doesn't make it right!” Manes said.
The siblings fear Cline fathered hundreds of children and believe he is holding back a lot of information.
They are hoping anyone who used Cline will get a DNA test through 23 and Me so they can continue to unravel the truth.