Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Wow, I can only imagine the emotional rollercoaster that these families must have gone through.

NEW YORK — DNA testing is virtually infallible when used to determine a person's identity, but how reliable are the people responsible for conducting the investigations?

That question is at the heart of the case of two college students, Laura VanRyn and Whitney Cerak, who were involved in an April 26 car crash in Upland, Ind. One of the women, thought to be Cerak, was pronounced dead on the scene by local coroner Ron Mowery. He said he relied on the dead woman's friends and physical evidence found at the accident scene, including a photo ID, to make his identification. Four days later, the woman thought to be Cerak was buried.

Meanwhile, the other woman, thought to be VanRyn, was taken to an area hospital. The VanRyn family stayed by the woman's bedside for five weeks, thinking it was their daughter. All the while, doctors, too, believed they were treating Laura VanRyn. It wasn't until the woman was able to communicate that her name was Whitney that the VanRyn family knew something was terribly wrong. Doctors later confirmed through dental records that the woman was not VanRyn, but instead was Cerak.

Experts believe the mix-up of the two Taylor University students was due to a combination of questionable training and inadequate scientific procedures and equipment.


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