DNA shows accident victim is not man missing since 1995

Test dashes hopes of Arundel mother

`I'm numb,' she says

November 09, 2001|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

A Glen Burnie woman whose son disappeared in 1995 has learned through DNA testing that a young man who died in Georgia more than five years ago - and whom she believed to be her missing child - is not her son.

Debra Mulligan has been waiting since August for the results of tests that compared Mulligan's DNA with genetic material saved from the autopsy of an unidentified car accident victim in Georgia. The young man lay comatose and anonymous for a year in Atlanta's Grady Hospital before dying in June 1996 from head injuries suffered when he was hit by a car.

"I'm numb," said Mulligan, who had become convinced since she submitted a DNA sample taken from her mouth for comparison purposes that the accident victim was her son, Donald Lee Izzett Jr.

The physical resemblance between Izzett and the victim was striking, but Mulligan initially had doubts because the accident victim had tattoos.

"I had a hard time believing he would have gotten tattoos," she said of her son, "but once I got past that, everything just matched."

Dr. Carol A. Terry, an associate medical examiner with the Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office, said she frequently has seen negative results from what had seemed to be promising matches between missing people and the unidentified cases in her office.

Mulligan, who learned this week about the DNA test results, hoped that if the unidentified young man proved to be her son, she could bury him next to his grandmother in Cumberland.

Izzett had just finished his freshman year at Frostburg State University in May 1995 when he left with a friend on a cross-country driving vacation. Mulligan last talked to her 19-year-old son when he called from California two weeks into his trip and said that he wanted to come home. She said that her son told her he would call back with details about where to wire him money, but she never heard from him again.

The Maryland State Police opened a missing-persons case on Izzett in 1995, and Mulligan also has searched for her son on her own over the years - printing up fliers and distributing them through a national missing children's network.

Izzett's case came to the attention of the Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office in July when a Parkville man who monitors missing-persons Web sites alerted the office to physical similarities between Izzett and the unidentified accident victim in Georgia. Terry's office posts pictures of its unidentified cases on its Web site.

The Fulton County office initiated DNA testing to compare tissue saved from the autopsy on the unidentified victim with a DNA sample given by Mulligan. Terry's office covered the $1,600 cost of testing.

"I know this sort of thing is hard on the family, but if you don't look, you're not going to know," Terry said.

Mulligan, a caseworker with Anne Arundel County's Department of Social Services, said she will continue to search for her son. She is having fliers printed to distribute nationwide and plans to go to California next year to try to learn more about her son's disappearance.

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