Lisa Van Ryn

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In addition to the unknown pair of shoes, Lisa says there were other moments that could have made her suspicious about the identity of her sister. She once caught a glimpse of Whitney's midsection and saw she had a bellybutton piercing—which Laura did not have before. She thought, "Spring break," she says.

Lisa recalls the exact moment she realized the person she'd stayed with in the hospital for five weeks was not her sister. After one therapy session, Lisa was alone with Whitney. Once again, Whitney said her name. Then she told Lisa her last name was "Cerak" and her parents were "Newell and Colleen." "I knew in that moment that she was right. Our suspicions had been building, and I just knew," Lisa says.

Though the fact that Whitney was the survivor of the accident also meant something else—that Laura was the one who had died—Lisa says she was not thinking about it at the time. "The moment that she said, 'Whitney'—and I knew that to be true in my heart—that was the moment we had been waiting for. For this person that we had been loving to say something that makes absolute sense, finally," she says. "That sounds crazy because I'm learning that it's not my sister. But in that moment, it was all about this girl that we had been caring for. Later I would think about my own sister being gone."