(WXIN) – The true crime documentary “Our Father” tells the story of Dr. Donald Cline, a former Indiana fertility doctor who used his own sperm to impregnate his patients without their knowledge.
Since that documentary first came out, 14 people have filed lawsuits against Cline. More families, like the Noblets, have also discovered they were victimized.
Jerry and Pamela met in 1974. The couple had three sons. The two oldest, Josh and Ryan, excelled in athletics. The close-knit Catholic family never dreamed of what they would learn in June of 2022.
Josh Noblet works in the field of genetics. He sat down to watch “Our Father” and felt an instant connection to the opening scenes of the Netflix documentary. In it, Jacoba Ballard, one of Dr. Cline’s many biological children, looks in the mirror and takes medicine for an autoimmune disease. Josh also takes autoimmune disease medication.
“It really hit me, because that is what I do every morning,” Josh said. The autoimmune disease is rare, affecting 8% or less of the population.
Josh ordered a 23 and Me genetic testing kit, curious about his autoimmune disease. Weeks later, he got news he was never expecting: The woman he watched in the documentary, Jacoba Ballard, is his sister.
How did it happen?
Pamela and Jerry Noblet were having problems getting pregnant. Pamela worked at St. Vincent Hospital for one of Dr. Cline’s friends. The top fertility specialist was booked, so the friend recommended Cline. The Noblets said Pam wasn’t ovulating consistently, and after six months of medications, she hadn’t gotten pregnant. They said that’s when Cline suggested inseminating Jerry’s sperm to enhance the chances of them getting pregnant. This method worked to conceive Josh, then Ryan.
“He told me it will be much easier the second time because we got the recipe,” Pamela said, recalling a conversation with Dr. Cline before conceiving Ryan. That quote sticks out in Pamela’s mind.
From past reporting by Nexstar’s WXIN, we know Cline lied to his patients, saying he used sperm from the father or from medical students during insemination. In the Noblets’ case, Jerry did provide sperm samples.
For more than 40 years, Jerry and Pamela had no reason to even think their sons were not fathered by Jerry. The Noblets even got pregnant with their third son with no fertility help at all.
During an interview with WXIN, Jerry looked at his wife and said, “He raped you. It just makes me sick to my stomach. There are people in prison that haven’t done nearly what he has done. I would love to see him in prison.”
Pamela wants to know one thing: why did Cline do it? “I just wish someone would get him to say why he did it. If we weren’t as strong of a family as we are this would have been a very rough time.”
Ryan wept while describing what it felt like to find out his dad wasn’t his biological father. “I am glad I did reach out for help. It saved me. I was in a bad place. I wanted to keep it quiet at first. He destroyed a lot of people’s lives.”
Jerry told both of his sons, “I told you then and I will tell you now, you will always be a Noblet. Both of you, I love you.”
Ryan also feels the physical pain of the genetic autoimmune disorder he shares with his older brother and some of his other 90-plus half-siblings.
Since the release of the Netflix documentary, the Noblets filed a civil suit. Attorney Kent Winingham, who represents other siblings, said, “It is a very difficult situation for them. It is emotional. Moving forward with a civil case is hard. Having your name out there to the extent it is published, it is difficult for some people. They are willing to take that risk. They want to do something about it. They are strong. They want some accountability.”
The Noblets’ lawsuit and the others filed are in the early stages.