The body of a baby - allegedly stillborn to Janet Johnson some 23 years ago at Cottonwood Hospital - was re-exhumed from an American Fork cemetery Wednesday morning for a second round of DNA testing this year.
The new tests are an effort by Murray Police to double check earlier DNA test results that indicated Johnson could not be the mother of the child, born April 29, 1975."This is just to make sure that all the evidentiary procedures are followed exactly," detective Alex Huggard said. "It's a second opinion."
Police did not supervise the first set of tests conducted earlier this year by the North Carolina laboratory LabCorp. A different lab will be used for the second set of tests, Huggard said.
Huggard will supervise the exhumation, sample collection and testing to reduce the possibility for errors in the results. Police, hospital officials, Johnson and Rae Jean and James Castille, a Nevada couple, whose baby was born and died at Cottonwood within six days of Johnson's child, all agreed the second round of tests were necessary, he said.
But it will likely be 1999 before any test results are available, Huggard said.
It was Johnson who had the baby's body exhumed last November and ordered the initial tests after she saw a television show about parents who learned their alleged stillborn babies had actually been kidnapped out of hospitals.
She doesn't know what happened to her child, but continues to believe he - or she - was born alive. She planned to attend Wednesday's exhumation, albeit reluctantly.
"I think it was the worst thing I've ever done, so I'm certainly not looking forward to doing it again," Johnson said. "I'm doing it mainly to clear up any questions that anyone might have."
Earlier this month, Johnson announced her intention to sue Cottonwood Hospital and two of its doctors who participated in the birth of her child. But so far, a suit has yet to be filed.
The hospital maintains, however, that nothing in their records suggest anything inappropriate happened to Johnson's baby boy and has fully cooperated with the police investigation, spokesman Jess Gomez said.
"We're just baffled by this whole thing," Gomez said. "The hospital has spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of man hours investigating this. But the bottom line is there are no answers that anything inappropriate happened."
Both Johnson and Rae Jean Castille, will provide saliva samples to police that will be tested against the bone samples from the child's remains, Huggard said.
DNA testing in one form or another has been available for about 20 years and the results - if tests are conducted correctly by a reputable lab - are considered highly accurate, said Todd Van Buren, a criminalist for the Utah State Crime Lab.
"There are some variables that may occur, but those generally lead to inconclusive results, not false results," said Van Buren who formerly worked for the University of Utah, where he conducted paternity tests.
His experience with paternity testing - in which labs look for matching genetic markers between children and fathers - lead Van Buren to believe that the second round of test will most likely again say Johnson is not the baby's mother. In testing at the U., when two of four genetic markers failed to match, a possible parent was considered an "exclusion" and therefore not the child's father, he said.
"If (Johnson has) already been excluded, then there's no way she can be the mother," Van Buren said.
That's exactly what Johnson expects to hear.
"I would bet my life that (the test results) will come back exactly the same," she said.
But she had hoped that by now, she would be closer to solving this mystery.
"It's been a whole year this month since I started this. I was hoping we would have more answers," she said. "I don't know what to think, but I certainly believe my baby was born alive."