Growing up in a military family instilled in David Stull a strong sense of serving the public, inspiring him to become a cop. But the 50-year-old, who was adopted and grew up an only child, long wondered about the family he never met.
Did he have some distant cousins living across the country? Do genetic diseases run in his family? “I wanted to see if I was going to go bald,” he joked.
Stull signed up for a DNA-testing service earlier this year, figuring not much would happen. Then the test results shocked him: Stull has a half-brother who lives a few hours’ drive away from him in Florida. All this time had gone by without knowing him.
It took Stull four days to decide to contact his half-brother, Eric Reynolds. After a bit of research, he realized his sibling is a cop just like him. Stull, an Orange County sheriff’s sergeant, found a picture online of Reynolds, a Boynton Beach police officer.
At that point, Stull said, “I knew it was a pretty safe bet.”
He emailed Reynolds. “Good morning, my name is David Stull,” he began. “We are half-brothers.”
It was an email that changed both of their lives.
Reynolds said he had never suspected he had other siblings out there (he was the oldest of four).
He had signed up for 23andMe, the DNA-testing service, more than three years earlier. He, too, had been curious about his family’s roots.
Reynolds and Stull began talking and texting, and it became immediately clear they were related.
Stull said a photo of his birth father surprised him. Stull had recently used FaceApp, the viral cellphone application that adds years to users’ faces — and Stull’s digitally aged portrait was a near-exact match to his birth father’s photo.
Reynolds phoned his dad to figure out how he went all this time without knowing Stull. “Hey dad,” Reynolds recalls saying, “You’ve got a brand new baby bouncing boy who’s 50 years old.”
But Reynolds’ father told him he was never told of Stull’s existence and lost contact long ago with Stull’s biological mother.
The two brothers finally met in Orange County.
“We hugged it out,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds said he felt comfortable meeting Stull for the first time. Stull, his big brother, even had a shot of vodka waiting for him, he said.
On Thursday, Stull traveled down to meet Reynolds in Boynton Beach.
He has been in Boynton only for a few days so far, but he already has a bounty of hand-drawn cards to put on his refrigerator at home.
That’s because Stull suddenly is an uncle to a collection of very excited nieces and nephews. He’s also now a big brother to four siblings.
Reynolds said that his entire family was excited to host Stull. “It was like waiting for Santa Claus,” he said.
The two still have some waiting to do.
When Reynolds retires in October, the two are planning a family reunion to give Stull the chance to meet his other siblings and their families.
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The two found it surprising that both coincidentally sought careers in law enforcement.
Reynolds, whose mother was a Miami-Dade homicide sergeant for nearly 30 years, didn’t decide to become an officer until after he graduated high school.
As a child, “The last thing I wanted to become was a cop.”
Stull always was certain of who he would be. “From the age of 4, I knew I had to be cop,” he said.
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