A DNA Test Reveals a Family Secret After Mom's Death | The Oprah Winfrey Show | OWN (2023)


Ben Goeller, a widowed single father, was shocked when he received a letter from a stranger claiming to be the father of Ben's 1-year-old son. Ben then took a DNA test, which concluded that his biological son was not really his. "It was one of the worst moments of my life," Ben told Oprah, as he shared his heartbreaking story and opened up about what it was like to face the fact that his wife had cheated on him before her death. For more on #oprahwinfreyshow, visit WatchOWN.tv/TOWS

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A DNA Test Reveals a Family Secret After Mom's Death | The Oprah Winfrey Show | OWN


Winfrey: This next story is a heartbreaker.


Unexpected letter arrives, demanding a DNA test.

The results revealed a secret one mother thought she had taken to her.


Look at this., Ben and Rondi Geller were high school sweethearts just about to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary, with two daughters away at college.

When Rondi gave Ben some very unexpected news.


GELLER: Then Rondi comes into my office and she goes, `We're, going to have a baby.' And I'm just--I, really was, I was ecstatic.

I went, `Yes!' I mean, I was at every single doctor's visit.


We knew it was a boy before, you know.

He was born.

I'm sitting there thinking, `I get to have a boy.

We're going to play baseball now,' you know? So.

It was nice.

WINFREY: Although, a new baby at this point in their lives came as a surprise.

Ben was thrilled.


GELLER: Being there for Bryan's birth was--it was phenomenal.

I got to hold him even before my wife, did.

It was really a nice experience.

WINFREY: Little Bryan's arrival was pure joy, .

Mrs., RONDI GELLER: Little Bryan.



That happiness was short-lived., When Bryan was just four months.

Old, his mother's life came to an abrupt and tragic end.


GELLER: Rondi complained.

She had a headache and said she wanted to go: lay down.

And when she went to lay down.

She never woke up from it.

She had a brain, aneurysm and never came out of the coma.

WINFREY: Alone with an infant, Ben's life was turned upside down., Mr., GELLER:, I--here, I, am, I'm, 40 years old and learning how to change the diapers, how to bathe him, how to do all this stuff.

And--and, then, on top of it, you're grieving, you know, your wife's gone, and--and you're trying to do all this stuff.

I mean, I--I can't even remember when I slept.

I don't know.

If I did for months, you know? It was a pretty rough time.

WINFREY: And, it would get even rougher.

When Bryan was just a year.

Old, Ben received a shocking letter from a stranger claiming to be Bryan's.


In, the letter, Ben, was ordered to take a DNA test to prove paternity.


GELLER:, In it.

It states that, `We, believe that your son is my biological son, and I demand.

A DNA testing and I demand.


And basically, we'd, like to take your son away from you,' and that's--that was what was in the letter.

And I was just--it was probably one of the worst moments of my life, I would say even--even worse than when my wife died.

The DNA testing, concluded that I was not the biological father.

WINFREY: Ben's worst fears came true.

He now had to face the facts.

His wife had cheated on him.


GELLER: And I just didn't want to believe it and, you know, now, I had to.

WINFREY: Not only did Ben have to admit Rondi had an affair.

He also had to fight for custody of Bryan, a court battle that continues today, seven years.


That is unbelievable.

My heart breaks for you.

Mr., GELLER:, Oh, thanks., WINFREY:, My, heart breaks for you.

And, so you-all are still battling back and forth.


GELLER: Yeah, still going on.

WINFREY: You feel like this is some kind of punishment.


GELLER: Well, yeah.

I mean, I--I was doing everything that America says you're supposed to do, you know, staying home, taking care of the baby, doing all that.

And, then all of a sudden, someone has the right to come in and take your child away from you? I d--I, just don't feel that's right.

WINFREY: So I'm, sure--I, mean, f--obviously, you might--you're over the shock, now..


GELLER:, Yeah., WINFREY:, ...of, realizing that.

First of all, your wife had an affair.

Your wife, who has now passed.

On, had had an affair.

Had you any clue? Had there been any suspicion? Had you ever thought, you know, at any time, `Maybe.

This isn't my son'? Mr.

GELLER: Oh, no, not prior to that.

I mean, afterwards, you--hindsight is wonderful.

You know, I--I realized a lot of things that I should have seen.

Probably, but, you know.

When you're with someone for 21 years, you don't look for any of that.

WINFREY: So, it had been 21 years?, Mr., GELLER:, Of, marriage, yeah, plus dating two years prior to that.

We, had been together longer than we'd been apart.




When this person then writes you and says, `I, think I am the father,'.

You thought what at first, that it's a--a..


GELLER: I thought it was a joke..

WINFREY:, A joke.

Mr., GELLER: ...someone, extorting money.


They used the wrong name., They, said, Kevin, `We.

Believe Kevin is my son,' and Kevin was an Irish setter.

I had that passed, away.

I was willing to give them the dog for DNA testing, you know, no problem., WINFREY:, Oh, OK.


Then what happened after that? Mr.


We went through a whole bunch of court battles, and prior to the DNA testing.

The courts finally said I had to give the DNA testing, and even then I still--still, didn't believe it.

WINFREY: So did this person admit to having an affair? Ob--obviously.

I mean..


GELLER: Well, yeah.




WINFREY: And? How long had that gone? On?, Mr., GELLER: Well, his claim, and--and investigators and everything else- we've been able to find, there's a big difference between his claim and what we've been able to find.

But we're just thinking somewhere between six and nine months.

WINFREY: Really.

They had an affair.



You knew nothing about it.

Mr., GELLER: I do now., I, didn't then.

Well, I mean.

You didn't think to look at phone records, and I.

Wasn't suspicious.

I didn't think to look at phone records, and--and wh--was she's bowling where she said she was going to go bowling or was she with somebody? Else? I didn't think about it.


Afterwards, I looked at the phone records and I found numbers that, you know, weren't..., WINFREY:, Yeah..., Mr., GELLER:, Yeah., WINFREY: ...that were not bowling alley.

Numbers., Mr., GELLER:, Yeah.

I, didn't watch the OPRAH show on how to find the cheating spouse, you know? WINFREY: That was years ago we did that.




It could have helped you.


Does your case stand now? And, who has custody of Bryan? Mr.

GELLER: Right now I have legal custody, full legal custody, and he has visitation rights and the case is in the Court of Appeals.


Do you explain this to your son? Mr.

GELLER: Very difficult, because he still doesn't--even, though he's going on eight,? He doesn't understand the difference between biological and non-biological.

WINFREY: Mm-hmm.


He does see the biological father.


GELLER: Yeah, th--he--they have six days a month, three weekends, a month.

WINFREY: Yeah, more than you do.





How is that explained to him? `You're going now to see your biological father'? Mr.

GELLER: Well, yeah,? It wasn't supposed to be told to him, but this guy, first thing, he--he tells Bryan.

`I'm you're dad.

You're not allowed to call him dad anymore.' I--it was--and.

He even said that he was married to my wife.

He told Bryan.


I had to prove to Bryan with my marriage certificate and pictures and everything else that I was the one married to his mother.


That's, a heartbreaker, too.





Now you have legal custody., Mr.

GELLER: I have full legal custody, but it's in the Court of Appeals and..., WINFREY: And, so the Court of Appeals is--you're, trying to decide--What?, --whether or not the biological father then has the right to see him? Mr.

GELLER: Well, in the Court of Appeals, we're trying to determine--nobody can come into you.

You have a family entity and it's intact.




Nobody can come into your family entity and take your child away from you.

It's--it's a.

You know, legality, there.

But, they're, saying that, because she passed away, that the family entity is no longer intact, and I'm saying, `No, you know.

Just because she passed away, the family was still there.

We were still there.

My daughters, Bryan, you know?' That, should not legally break up a family just because someone passes away.


Thank you for being here.

Mr., GELLER:, Thank you.


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Two sisters who had no idea the other existed have been united after spending more than 60 years apart, thanks to a surprising DNA test. Julie Mamo, now 66, was born in Dover in 1956 and adopted at nine days old after her mother, Lillian Fisher, then 17 and unmarried, felt pressure to give her up.

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Lydia Fairchild (born 1976) is an American woman who exhibits chimerism, having two distinct populations of DNA among the cells of her body.

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The test requires comparing the 12 marker results of one individual to the 12 markers of another individual with the same surname. If the result matches 12/12, there is a 99% probability that the two are related within the time-frame indicated in the MRCA tables. Y DNA test results.

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