When Alesia Rivera was 22 years old, the man she thought was her father showed up drunk at her house, took her aside, and slurred the words that would change her life. He said she was old enough to know the truth about where she came from. He told her to talk to her mother.
When she did, Rivera discovered the identity of her true biological father — Doyle Brant.
It made a lot of sense. Born in 1969, she had grown up hearing jokes at the skating rink about how she and the Brant kids could pass for siblings. The fact that Brant was among the richest and most privileged citizens in Buchanan County made the revelation all the more dramatic. She was living a fairy tale.
Rivera tried reaching out, of course. But when Brant answered the phone, he told her to never call again. Brant had been separated when he got involved with Rivera's mother, and after her birth, he'd returned to his wife. He had made an agreement with Rivera's mother to cut all contact, for the good of his marriage, he explained. And then he hung up.
But that wasn't the end.
Soon after, Brant's wife died. He arranged a meeting with Rivera and, in another storybook turn, they reunited the two sides of their families. Even after Brant remarried, he still made time to attend events and holidays. Brant took Rivera to lunch and to horse races.
After two years, he got divorced and found another wife. Something changed. The fairytale ended.
"We waited one year for him to come to Christmas and he never showed up," Rivera says. "He never came back."
Two decades passed.
In February 2013, Brant's life collapsed. A felony complaint filed by the Buchanan County prosecutor alleged that the multi-millionaire had sexually abused a fourteen-year-old girl in 2006. In the probable cause statement, an officer noted that Brant had demonstrated a "history of continuing harassing behavior" against the now 21-year-old woman, "calling, texting and arriving at the same locations after crime victim has attempted to break all contact with suspect."
Brant, then 69, was charged with second-degree statutory sodomy. A conviction could put him prison for up to four years.
And that was just one count. Prosecutors eventually added three counts of statutory rape and another for statutory sodomy.
News of Brant's arrest landed like a bomb in Buchanan County, setting in motion events that ultimately cost the trucking mogul not only his freedom, but his marriage and wealth as well.
Brant's family turned on him, Rivera says. His wife took everything in the divorce, leaving him with a dwindling sum to be devoured by lawyers' fees. She remembers feeling outraged.
"For all their lives they'd been pampered, well taken care of, and now they just walked away? Everything that that man had done for them kids, and for them to just walk away because he's looking at a rape charge that nobody knows for sure if he's guilty or not guilty?"
But if Brant's wife and the kids abandoned him, Rivera did not. Soon after his arrest, they reunited in the Buchanan County Jail visitation room. She returned to visit week after week, and she talked to him constantly on the phone while he cooled his heels waiting for trial. She wanted to be there for him, to be a good daughter.
It turned out to be the biggest mistake of her life.