Homicide detective finds birth mother using DNA scan after decades of research

As a homicide investigator in the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Brandon Bartoskewitz is tasked with solving murder cases and unraveling mysteries.

Perhaps he was drawn to the profession, he said, because of the mystery surrounding his own life.

Adopted at birth, Bartoskewitz has spent his life wondering: who is my birth mother?

He searched for years without success. Then, in November, Bartoskewitz struck up a conversation at a conference for homicide investigators, triggering a blitz that uncovered the answer to his elusive quest.

“It’s definitely a long trip,” he said. “I was placed in the right place with the right tools. “

Bartoskewitz, 36, was born in San Antonio and raised in the woods. His parents were open about his adoption, he said, but had little information to share as it was a closed adoption handled by lawyers.

As an adult, Bartoskewitz became more curious about his biological roots. He contacted the adoption agencies in the area without success.

The missing information was more and more pressing as he got older, Bartoskewitz said. He had trouble filling out paperwork every time he went to a doctor because he had no family history to report.

In his early 30s, he chose to test his DNA through the 23andMe genealogy company to uncover information about his health and ancestors. The results revealed multiple parents, including a cousin, but every potential lead ended in deadlock.

In November, Bartoskewitz attended the Southeastern Homicide Investigators Association’s annual training conference in San Antonio. The days were filled with presentations, seminars and vendors.

He started speaking with a provider called Identifinders International, a company that uses genealogy to identify bodies, and asked if he was ever dealing with cases involving people who were still alive.

Perhaps feeling nostalgic for the city he was born in, the detective has shared the story of his adoption and the search for answers for decades.

Company representatives were happy to help, Bartoskewitz said. The company exported the genetic data from its 23andMe profile and crossed it with their databases.

It worked – the company found a genetic link to the detective’s maternal grandfather, Howard Goodson. He served as a paratrooper in an airborne division during World War II and was awarded the Purple Heart after being injured during the invasion of Sicily, according to a 1943 newspaper article.

When Bartoskewitz saw Goodson’s photo in the newspaper, he knew they were on the right track – the man’s face had striking similarities to his. Leaning over a laptop at a conference table, a smile broke out on his face when the detective first saw someone who looked like him.

“It was crazy to start having answers after all this time,” he said.

Goodson had seven children, but investigators determined Bartoskewitz to be the son of one of Goodson’s three daughters. They used age and context cues to eliminate all but one of the women, Shawna Goodson.

Again, it looked like they were on the right track – her high school yearbook photo looked surprisingly familiar.

Still, Bartoskewitz didn’t know how she would take the news or if she wanted to be found. He didn’t know if she had a family or other children. An employee of the genetics company made the first contact with Goodson.

At first, she thought the calls from the unidentified number were spam and ignored them. But the appellant persisted. When they finally spoke on the phone, the employee asked Goodson if the detective’s date of birth meant anything to her.

Yes, she said, the date – December 30, 1983 – was her son’s birthday. And yes, she told them, she wanted to talk to him.

Bartoskewitz was nervous, but five minutes later he called his birth mother for the first time in his life.

They made an appointment as soon as possible. Two days later, they met at a restaurant in San Antonio that was once a general store operated by his family.

Bartoskewitz said he spent lunch wide-eyed. Goodson was a nervous wreck, she said, with so many questions she found it hard to come up with them all.

The detective saw parts of his personality reflected in his mother – both are more careful with people at first, he said. They looked alike too, with the same round noses. Goodson quickly discovered several common interests: Ford trucks, Whataburger and Corgi dogs.

Most importantly, Bartoskewitz learned more about the mother he had always dreamed of meeting and knowing.

Goodson told her that she was the youngest of seven children and that she grew up in Helotes, a town near San Antonio. She and her siblings cultivated a garden and sold fruits and vegetables, instilling a strong work ethic in them from an early age.

She now works as an operations manager for a pest control company owned by her brother and stays in the San Antonio area. Goodson, now divorced, had no more children.

At 16, she gave birth to her son during Christmas vacation in high school. Goodson said she decided to give him up for adoption because she didn’t have the financial means to support him and the child’s biological father was not in the photo.

She said she had always wanted to reconnect with her son, even though that didn’t seem like a real possibility.

At the reunion in San Antonio, Goodson introduced Bartoskewitz to most of his siblings. They were shocked and excited, she said. The likeness of his son was so familiar to the family that a brother swore he had already met Bartoskewitz.

Bartoskewitz said his adoptive parents were in favor of his reuniting with Goodson and were full of questions.

“They gave me a fantastic life,” he said of his adoptive family. “They were also happy to hear the news.”

Bartoskewitz returned to San Antonio in late December to celebrate his 38th birthday with his mother.

Since their first meeting, the mother and son have texted and exchanged photos. She showed him an ultrasound which she kept for all these years. He showed her a photo of his adoptive parents holding him the day they brought him home from the hospital, swaddled in a blanket.

“It was really moving,” she said of the photo. Goodson was unable to see or hold his son after he was born.

The mother said she felt extremely relieved to know that her son was healthy, happy and being raised by a loving and supportive family.

“I’m proud of him,” she said. “I’m so glad he found me. It changes my whole life.

[email protected]