Ray Casas' work of conducting DNA tests changes lives.

Ray Casas' work changes lives.

Patricia Meyer-McDonald, who is adopted, now knows that Jerry Knight is her "pop." "Our reunion after 41 years was wonderful," she said.

Jose Araujo knows that a baby born to a former girlfriend is not his. "It hurt a little at the beginning because my family had gotten involved and my parents were expecting a grandchild, but at the end, I'm thankful I found out."

Whether the results of the DNA tests he administers are welcomed or not, Casas, owner of Assured DNA and Drug Testing in Austin (www.assuredtestingdna.com), knows that the news brings closure. "And the results give people the opportunity to do the right thing," he said.

Casas conducts the $250 tests in a conference room. With several swabs of the inside the tested subject's cheek, Casas begins a process that will provide answers to big questions. The DNA is sent to a licensed lab that overnights the results to Casas.

Eighty percent of his clients want a paternity test, Casas said. Often, the DNA test is part of a court order that involves child support.

Sometimes, a man in doubt about fatherhood will call Casas from the hospital. That's what Araujo, 22, did when a hospital employee asked him to sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity form that is filed with the state of Texas. The information eventually is included in the birth certificate.

"I had my doubts, so I immediately got on the Internet on my phone and found Mr. Casas," Araujo said. He didn't sign the form but instead rushed over to see Casas. Within four days, the results confirmed that he wasn't the baby's father, Araujo said.

"In my business, you get heartbreak," said Casas, 43. "Sometimes a father wants to prove that he's the dad in order to get visitation rights. And if he's not the father, it can be a pretty emotional time."

Born and raised in Austin and a graduate of Crockett High School, Casas grew up in a single-parent home. "It was the type of upbringing where my mom taught me two things. She said, 'Son, don't get any tattoos and never hit a woman,' " he said.

Casas said he got interested in DNA testing when he worked in the child support division of the Attorney General's Office. "I saw that many men were in arrears in child support payments because they were contesting paternity and waiting a long time for test results. I figured there had to be a quicker way," he said.

Casas next became a process server, delivering legal documents for attorneys. He met a man from San Antonio with a DNA testing company. Casas observed his operation and did more research online. In 2003, he opened Assured DNA Testing.

"It's the best job," he said. "I love what I do because it provides people answers. I help people."

He helped Meyer-McDonald, 41, of Austin. Meyer-McDonald, who is adopted, found her biological mother about a year and a half ago. The woman told Meyer-McDonald there were two men who could be her biological father. "She connected with one of the men through classmates.com," Meyer-McDonald said. "In time, she revealed to him he could be a father." That man was Jerry Knight.

Meyer-McDonald's mother contacted Knight, 69, and asked if he wanted to take a DNA test. Meyer-McDonald eventually e-mailed Knight. "His writing and prose were so much like mine," she said. Knight drove from Leakey to Austin in July to take the DNA test with Casas.

"I was not feeling good about the test in the first place, but Mr. Casas made me feel exceptionally comfortable," Knight said.

The test revealed their DNA matched. Meyer-McDonald and Knight met July 16 at his home in Leakey. "I'm not a religious man, but it was one of those moments. It was a gift," Knight said. "Now, we're learning about each other. We like the same things; we process our thinking the same way. Her parents who raised her did a great job, but I can tell a lot of other things are genetic." Meyer-McDonald plans to write a book about their reunion.

Casas said it's impossible not to get caught up in stories like that of Knight and Meyer-McDonald. "It works the other way, too," he said. "There's heartbreak when people don't get the results they want."

Often, people volunteer more personal information than he wants to hear. He sees the good side of people, like those trying to establish family relationships by making the connection through DNA testing. He also meets people attempting to establish paternity for financial gain.

"I never know who's going to walk in through the door," he said.

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