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Published Monday January 3rd, 2022 at 8:41am

Original Article by Anna Bauman

Detective Brandon Bartoskewitz found his birthmother using DNA analysis.
Brandon Bartoskewitz, a homicide detective with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, found his birth mother, Shawna Goodson, through DNA analysis.

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

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

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

He searched for years with no success. Then, in November, Bartoskewitz struck up a conversation at a conference for homicide investigators, sparking a whirlwind hunt that uncovered the answer in his elusive quest.

“This is definitely a long journey,” he said. “I was put in the right place with the right tools.”

Bartoskewitz, 36, was born in San Antonio, Texas and raised in The Woodlands. His parents were forthcoming about his adoption, he said, but they had little information to share because his was a closed adoption handled by attorneys.

As an adult, Bartoskewitz became more curious about his biological roots. He contacted adoption agencies in the region with no luck.

The missing information felt more pressing as he became older, Bartoskewitz said. He struggled to complete paperwork each time he visited a doctor’s office because he had no family history to report.

In his early 30s, he opted to test his DNA through the genealogy company 23andMe to uncover information about his health and ancestry. The results revealed several relatives, including a cousin, but each potential lead hit a dead end.

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

He started talking with a vendor called Identifinders International, a company that uses genealogy to identify bodies, and asked if they ever handle cases involving people who are still alive.

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

Representatives from the company were excited to help, Bartoskewitz said. The company exported the genetic data from his 23andMe profile and cross-referenced 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 air-borne division during World War II and was awarded the Purple Heart after he was wounded in the invasion of Sicily, according to a 1943 newspaper article.

When Bartoskewitz saw the photograph of Goodson in the newspaper, he knew they were on the right track — the man’s face had striking similarities to his own. Hunched over a laptop at a conference table, a smile broke out on his face as the detective for the first time saw someone who resembled him.

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

Goodson had seven children, but investigators determined that Bartoskewitz was the son of one of Goodson’s three daughters. They used age and context clues to eliminate all but one woman, Shawna Goodson.

Again, it appeared they were on the right track — her high school yearbook photo looked strikingly familiar.

Still, Bartoskewitz didn’t know how she would take the news or whether she wanted to be found. He didn’t know if she had a family or other children. An employee from 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 caller was persisent. When they eventually spoke on the phone, the employee asked Goodson if the detective’s date of birth meant anything to her.

Yes, she said, the date — Dec. 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 biological mother for the first time in his life.

They arranged to meet as soon as possible. Two days later, they met at a San Antonio restaurant that used to be a general store operated by her family.

Bartoskewitz said he spent the lunch wide-eyed. Goodson was a bundle of nerves, she said, with so many questions that she struggled to voice all of them.

The detective saw parts of his personality reflected in his mother — both are more cautious around people at first, he said. They looked similar too, with the same round nose. Goodson quickly discovered several shared interests: Ford trucks, Whataburger and Corgi dogs.

Most importantly, Bartoskewitz learned more about the mother he had always longed to meet and know.

Goodson told him that she is the youngest of seven children and grew up in Helotes, a city near San Antonio. She and her siblings grew a garden and sold fruits and vegetables, instilling in them a strong work ethic from a young age.

She now works as the director of operations for a pest control company owned by her brother and remains in the San Antonio region. Goodson, now divorced, had no more children.

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

She said she had always wished to reconnect with her son, though it did not seem like a real possibility.

During the reunion in San Antonio, Goodson introduced Bartoskewitz to most of her siblings. They were shocked and excited, she said. Her son’s resemblance was so familiar to the family that one brother swore he had already met Bartoskewitz.

Bartoskewitz said his adoptive parents were supportive of him reconnecting with Goodson and were full of questions.

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

Bartoskewitz traveled back to San Antonio in late December to spend his 38th birthday with his mother.

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

“It was really emotional,” she said about looking at the photo. Goodson did not get to see or hold her son after his birth.

The mother said she felt overwhelming relief to know her son was healthy, happy and 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.”