Family Secrets: What a Spokane cop discovered through DNA tests
SPOKANE, Wash. — Millions of people use DNA tests to learn more about their own ethnicity. But one of Spokane’s best known police officers is using them to investigate her own father’s sordid past and search for family members she’s always suspected may be out there.
Imagine living your life like Teresa Fuller with a stranger in your own house.
“We always knew that there were some things that were not quite right,” explained Fuller.
She knew her dad as Robert Malcolm Clark. He’d told Fuller’s mom he was sterile, which raised suspicions when Teresa and her brother were born. He’d also told them all his relatives were dead and that he’d served in the Air Force in the aftermath of the Korean War. But Fuller says, “We were never able to verify any of that stuff.”
Her father died 20 years ago, just before Fuller entered the police academy.
“I think it’s actually kind of ironic that I ended up in the career path that I have chosen,” she said. “And look at where his life led him all of those years.”
But even with her police training, and plenty of public records, Fuller could never unlock the secrets of her father’s past, or find out if she had more family members out there, until recent advances in DNA testing.
“Who knew you were going to be able to spit in a tube and send it off in the mail and know what your ethnicity was and find out who other relatives might be?” Fuller joked.
One of the first relatives she discovered was an aunt in Tennessee, who told her her heritage wasn’t what her dad led her to believe.
“I was always told by my dad that we’re Irish,” said Fuller. “We’re not. We’re Scottish.”
Then, her aunt, Sharon Proctor, dropped this bombshell.
“That sounds like my half brother, Rusty. His real name is Samuel Arthur McClain. The last time I saw him, the FBI was at my front dor and my dad was rushing him out the back.”
And that wasn’t all Sharon revealed.
“You have a sister named Shelley in Canada,” Fuller recounts. “I’m like, ‘Wow!'”
The next day, Fuller received an email from Shelley Hrushka, the half sister she never knew she had, and they quickly forged a bond.
“(Shelley) was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. You’ve got to see the pictures of my oldest daughter, because you look so much alike.'”
Samuel Arthur Mcclain left when Shelley was just six months old. A private investigator found out he’d been married once before Hrushka’s mom and two, or maybe three, more times before Fuller’s mom.
“There’s 20 years between Shelley’s mom and my mom,” said Fuller. “So Lord knows what happened in those 20 years.”
Then Hrushka told Fuller something that stills gives her chills. Hrushka once told a psychic she was looking for somebody. That psychic told Hrushka he saw two kids riding horseback in New Mexico.
“And I said, ‘Shelley, your brother and I grew up riding horses all of our life. My two kids ride horses and have since they were walking. And our dad died in that area of the United States.”
After that, the sisters knew they need to meet in person. So a few weeks ago, Fuller traveled to Alberta to meet Hrushka, and her other newly discovered family members.
“It was fantastic. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience,” explained Fuller. “It had been my birthday that week. And so, I showed up and there were birthday presents waiting for me and a dozen roses.”
Fuller was able to share things about the father they shared, but Hrushka never knew.
“He had good parts to him, despite the obvious bad parts of him, you know?” said Fuller. “He was a loving man when he had his moments.”
Fuller and Hrushka didn’t get far in trying to find more information about their dad because they don’t have proof of death in his real name.
“Taking a look at that stuff with the police officer lens, it was like, ‘Really, dad?'”
The sisters are still hoping to find even more family members.
“We’re fairly certain there’s probably more siblings out there and we’d like to connect with them if at all possible,” said Fuller.
But even if they don’t, Fuller and Hrushka now have each other and at least some family questions now answered through DNA testing.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome,” Fuller said with a beaming smile. “Even if we don’t find anything else out, the fact that I have this additional sister and addition family to love is the best there could have been.”
According to Fuller, Hrushka is now planning a visit to Spokane, so she can meet her newly discovered family members here in America.
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