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Another branch of family tree?

President Clinton's family tree is more like a wild bush, with branches going every which way and some roots buried so deep they're lost.

His father died young and his mother married three other men, one of them twice. The family says he has six step-siblings and at least one half-brother, fledgling singer Roger Clinton.

Now there's talk of an older half-brother he never knew of, a retired janitorial service owner who says he and the president had the same father. Although marriage and birth records support the claim of Henry Leon Ritzenthaler, some of the president's family don't think he's related.

Without confirming the report, Clinton said he tried to call Ritzenthaler, 55, Monday. "I placed a call but there was nobody home. I don't think I should say anything until I've talked to him," Clinton told reporters.

Clinton's father, W. J. Blythe of Sherman, Texas, died in a traffic accident before the future president was born. Blythe's widow, Virginia, moved to Hope, Ark., to live with her parents.

She gave birth there to William Jefferson Blythe in 1946 and married car dealer Roger Clinton in 1950, when Bill was 4.

The family moved to Hot Springs, Ark., and Virginia had her second son, Roger Clinton. The boys were close. Bill, who took his stepfather's name, is 46. Roger is 35.

Roger spent a year in federal prison after pleading guilty in 1984 to cocaine charges.

Their mother divorced the elder Roger Clinton, an abusive alcoholic, then remarried him before he died of cancer in 1968. He had had two children by a previous marriage, George Murphy and Roy Murphy, both of Hot Springs. The president knows both politically, his mother says.

Virginia's third husband, hairdresser Jeff Dwire, had two daughters, one of whom has been jailed on drug and burglary charges in Texas. Virginia was married to Dwire six years before he died of complications from diabetes.

Her current husband, retired food broker Dick Kelley, has two children by a previous marriage. Dick Kelley Jr. works for a Little Rock engineering firm; Kathy Ferrar lives in Hot Springs.

Clinton was thought to be Blythe's only child. But the Washington Post reported Sunday that records show Blythe married Adele Gash Coffelt 11 years before Clinton's birth. They divorced a year later, then Ritzenthaler was born in 1938. The birth certificate lists W. J. Blythe as the father.

Clinton's mother said Monday she did not know if the Ritzenthaler's claim was true. "He (Blythe) didn't say anything to me," she said.

Blythe's sister, Vera Ramey, told the Post the father actually was a married family member whom she wouldn't identify. She said Blythe took responsibility to avoid a family scandal.