LEWISTON — After 25 years of searching, multiple DNA tests and so many dashed hopes, twins born in Lewiston and adopted by an Arizona couple 36 years ago have finally found their biological father.

Kelly Stinnett, left, and Kristi Turner, right, were born in Lewiston and adopted as newborns by an Arizona couple. They have been looking for their biological father for 25 years. Submitted photo

“I called my sister and told her to look (at the DNA test results online),” Kristi Turner said. “She said ‘Oh my god!’ Then she and I basically ran around the house like we just won the lottery.”

The twins and their quest were featured in the Sun Journal in 2017. At the time, they knew almost nothing about their biological father — they had no name, no age, no idea how he had connected with their biological mother, a local woman who’d suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child and was left with challenges. They knew they were probably conceived sometime in mid-April 1984, so he had to have been in Lewiston then. But that was the only thing they had to go on.

That public plea for information in 2017 netted them two promising leads and resulted one DNA test, but no father. Connections through genealogy sites yielded another possibility, but that was a bust, too.

“I just kind of lost hope at that point,” Turner said.

Her sister, Kelly Stinnett, decided they needed help.

“I came across a Facebook site called the DNA Detectives and posted the first Sun Journal story asking for help,” Stinnett said. “Carol Bertucci, a ‘DNA angel’ messaged me asking if she could help. Of course I said yes, which was the best decision I have ever made in the search for our biological father.”

Bertucci combed through the twins’ DNA and genealogical connections online and put together a massive family tree consisting of third and fourth cousins and other distant relatives. Eventually, they were led to the Weller family.

And that led them to Thomas Weller.

Weller, it turned out, had been close friends with their biological mother, Shirlene Heywood. Like her, he had suffered a brain injury when he was young. One rainy day in the spring of 1984, she was taking a walk when they ran into each other. He offered her his place to dry off, then cooked for her.

“Then they did some stuff and that’s, I guess, how we came to be,” Turner said.

Soon after, Weller moved from the area having no idea Heywood was pregnant. Another man was assumed to be the father and Weller wasn’t there to question it.

“I had no idea at all because nobody told me,” he said. “I wish that I had known about it because I could have been by her side.”

Thomas Weller, 22, poses for a photo in 1981, a few years before the twins were born. Weller was delighted to learn this week that he is the biological father they’ve been searching for. Submitted photo

Instead, Weller moved forward with his life — working, getting married, getting divorced, finding a new love. He never had children with his spouses.

Last month, his sister told him she had been contacted by twins looking for their biological family. He might be their father.

“Overall, I was overwhelmed with joy,” Weller, 62, said.

The twins live in Arizona while Weller lives in Missouri, so a quick meeting was out of the question, particularly with the pandemic. And, besides, Turner and Stinnett had been so certain they’d found their father before, only to be left heartbroken. They wanted to keep a little distance this time, just until they were sure.

So they spoke on the phone and gathered virtually online with Weller and Heywood on Christmas Day. And they waited for the DNA results.

They got those results this week. Weller is, indeed, their biological father.

When he found out, he said, he felt “just like I could wrap my arms around them with a great big hug.”

The sisters now have the answer they’ve been wanting for most of their lives.

“I am relieved,” Turner said. “It feels like kind of an empty space has been filled.”

Turner and Stinnett hope to visit Weller at his home soon and possibly attend a reunion for extended family in Maine. In the meantime, they talk every day.

Weller is delighted to suddenly have not only children but also grandchildren. The twins are delighted to have found him.

“It took 25 years for us, but it was all worth it,” Stinnett said.

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