When the newborn Paul Joseph Fronzak was kidnapped from a Chicago hospital in 1964, newspapers throughout America wrote about this horrible story. Two years later, a boy abandoned on the street was identified as a missing baby and returned to the burning parents.
Years later, Paul began to investigate what happened, and was shocked by what he had learned, writes BBC.
Find in the subfield
Once, when Paul Fronzak was 10 years old, he began to rummage around the house in search of hidden Christmas gifts and, pushing the couch aside, climbed into the underground. There he found three boxes of strange letters, newspaper clippings, and condolence cards.
One newspaper headline read "Two Hundred Operations to Find Stolen Child"; another read "Mother Asks Kidnapper to Return Child to Her."
Paul recognized his parents in the photo: they looked younger and looked distressed. Then he read that their newborn boy, Paul Joseph, had been kidnapped.
"Blimey! After all, it’s me!” he thought.
The story is really amazing
On April 26, 1964, Dora Fronzak gave birth to a boy at the hospital. Michael Reese in Chicago and spent the whole day with him - during those hours when he did not sleep with other babies in the newborn ward. But the next morning, a woman in the uniform of a nurse came to Dora's room and took the baby to be examined by the pediatrician. This woman was never seen again.
When the hospital staff realized that there was something wrong, the desperate search for the baby began. However, the hospital administration for several hours did not report anything to the law enforcement agencies or the parents of the child.
At three o'clock in the afternoon, they finally called Dora's husband Chester Fronzak at the factory where he worked as a mechanical fitter.
“My father had to leave work, go to the hospital and tell his wife that their child was missing,” says Paul. You think you're safe because you're in the hospital. But that’s where your child gets kidnapped.”
One of the largest search operations in the history of Chicago began, involving 175 postal workers, 200 police officers and the FBI. By midnight, they had searched 600 houses - to no avail.
The discovery in the underground, of course, shocked Paul, and he ran upstairs with newspaper clippings in his hands to ask his mother if all this was really written about him? Dora reacted indignantly by telling him to stop sticking his nose in other people's business. Then she admitted: “Yes, you were kidnapped, we found you, we love you, and this is the most important thing.”
Paul realized that it’s not worth talking about it anymore, and stopped talking for the next 40 years. However, this story still aroused his keen interest, and often, when he was alone, Paul went down into the underground and read newspaper clippings about himself.
And it was from the newspapers that he learned the next chapter in this story - how exactly he ended up in the Fronzac family. After the kidnapping of the baby, Dora and Chester remained in the hospital for a week, awaiting news. When they returned home, journalists began to hunt for them.
Despite such wide coverage of events in the press, the police did not have any versions. The child disappeared without a trace, and gradually the investigation turned.
Then, in March 1966 of the year, almost two years after the abduction, Dora and Chester received a letter from the FBI that a baby was found in Newark, New Jersey, similar in description to their son.
This boy was left in a stroller in a populous shopping center in July of the previous year, and he was given up for foster care, to Eckertz. They baptized him, called him Scott McKinley, and became so attached to him that they thought about adopting him.
But while they haven’t done so yet, a New Jersey police investigator decided to check if this child is the missing baby from Chicago.
The FBI began to check this guess. They had no particular data: in the Chicago hospital, there was no record of the blood type of the baby Paul, no fingerprints of the arms or legs. All they had was the only photo taken on the day he was born, and the shape of the ear in that photo looked like the ear of a boy brought up in the Eckertz family.
“They ended up testing over 10 boys looking for a kidnapped baby, and I was the only one who couldn't be completely ruled out,” says Paul.
The Fronzacs were ecstatic at the news. “In those years, the FBI was an elite agency, and if they reported something, they were believed,” he explains.
Three months after receiving the letter from the FBI, they got into the car and drove to Chicago to see the boy, who may have been their son, in the children's social service in New Jersey.
With all three before the meeting conducted a series of psychological tests. Dora and Chester were also to receive official permission to adopt the child, who now bore the name Scott.
“An FBI officer took me into a room and they gave us time to get used to each other,” says Paul. “After all, my mother spent less than a day with her son before he was stolen. And suddenly, a few years later, she sees her baby!”
Dora later confessed to Paul that she had the feeling that the whole world was following her.
“She could have said, 'I'm not sure,' and then the child would have been placed back into the guardianship system. Or she could say, "Yes, that's my son." And even if it wasn't, she would have saved the child from a terrible fate,” explains Paul.
Dora said this is her son.
“She did what she thought was right, and I'm glad she did that,” he adds.
Spouses Fronzak went with him to Chicago and officially adopted him.
They were loving parents, maybe a little too caring, which is understandable. This sometimes led to clashes. Paul was sent to a Catholic school, where there were strict rules, and he loved rock music and grew his hair.
Once, when they were arguing about the length of his hair, Dora said: “I wish they never found you!”
Paul couldn't forget it. “Even today, when I think about it, it makes me very sad,” he admits.
After graduating from school, Paul left his parents in Arizona and became a bass player in a local rock band. Five years later, when the group broke up, he returned to Chicago, wandered there without work, and a year later he joined the army.
After demobilization, the guy traveled around the country, worked as a salesman, fashion model and even an actor, and eventually settled in Las Vegas.
“I have moved from place to place at least fifty times, reworked in a hundred places. And wherever I went, wherever I was, I always had those newspaper clippings with me, ”admits Paul.
In 2008, he married a second time, and soon he and his wife Michelle, who worked as a teacher, began to wait for the birth of their daughter. Paul was in seventh heaven.
However, when the obstetrician began to ask about the family history, Paul suddenly realized that he did not know what to say, because from the very moment when he learned about the abduction, he was haunted by the question: are his parents really his real parents?
“In fact, I was thinking like this: “What is the probability that I really am the same baby that was stolen in Chicago? I was found so far away from there that it seemed unlikely,” he says.
Paul always felt like a bit of a stranger. It seemed that his parents were closer to his younger brother Dave. The three of them were quiet, calm, and Paul liked to listen to loud music and ride a motorcycle. And outwardly, they were not similar.
“Dave looked like an exact copy of my father: the same gestures, facial expressions, physique - literally everything. And I was not like any of the parents, ”- Paul admits.
"Am I really me"
Now he was haunted by the question: is he really the same stolen child?
“For many years I wanted to do a DNA test and compare it with my parents,” Paul shares his reasoning. “Not because I was unhappy, I just wanted to know the truth. But I always found some excuse. I didn't want to offend them. But then the moment came when I just had to find out.”
He was put off by the cost of this procedure, but one day in 2012, Paul saw a kit for home DNA testing being sold in a store and bought several. And when his parents came to visit him from Chicago one day, Paul plucked up the courage to talk about it just before they left.
“Have you ever wondered if I really am your son?” he asked them. Taken by surprise, the parents admitted that yes, they did. "Do you want to know the truth?" Paul asked them.
A few minutes later, each of them took a swab from his mouth, and they sealed the samples in test tubes. Then Paul took his parents to the airport. However, a few hours later, when their plane had already landed in Chicago, Dora and Chester changed their minds. They called Paul and asked him not to send out the test tubes: he is their son, and that's that.
“I kept these tubes in a drawer for two weeks. I struggled with myself every day because I love my parents. I wanted to respect their request, but sometimes you have to do what you think is right. Is there anything wrong with trying to find out the truth?” Paul asks.
In the end, he sent the tubes to the lab
Paul was at work when he received a call to report the results of the audit. He answered a series of security questions and was then told that there was not even the remotest possibility that he was Paul Fronzack, Dora and Chester's biological son.
“I suddenly felt that the earth had disappeared from under my feet, that the blood had drained from my face. My thoughts were confused, I broke out in sweat, - Paul recalls. - Everything that I knew about myself - my birthday, medical history, the fact that I am Pole by blood, Catholic, even that I am Taurus by horoscope - everything suddenly evaporated, and for a moment I simply did not know who I am".
The result of the DNA analysis immediately raised two important questions: who were Paul's parents, if not Dora and Chester Fronzaki? And what happened to the real Paul?
Even before Paul reported this news to his parents, he contacted local investigative journalist George Nappa and asked for help. Soon the name of Paul Joseph Fronzak again hit the news headlines across the country. His family, who avoided the press, was furious, and more than a year no one of them spoke with Paul.
“You have to understand that the main reason I went for it was to find my parents' real child,” explains Paul. “They were great parents. So the best gift I could give them is to find their missing son. And I couldn't think of a better way than to go to the press."
One of the consequences of the appeal to journalists was that the FBI reopened the old investigation into the kidnapping of the child from the Fronzacs. In Chicago, they found 10 folders with investigative materials, but Paul, by law, could not get acquainted with them, because DNA analysis confirmed that he was not the stolen child.
He was able to talk to Bernie Carey, the retired FBI employee who was originally involved in this case, and he confirmed that some of his team doubted that they had found the kidnapped child.
Paul was more fortunate in finding his biological parents. A group of volunteers called DNA Detectives (DNA Detectives) began to engage in his business, and completely free of charge. Under the guidance of genetic genealogy analyst Cece Moore, volunteer genealogists conducted a whole search operation based on Paul's DNA data.
They searched for all sorts of mentions in newspapers and vital records, combed social networks and spent hours on the phone. Despite the fact that Paul was found in the state of New Jersey, genealogical detectives found his family in a completely different state - in Tennessee. In addition, DNA analysis revealed that Paul had Ashkenazi Jews in his family.
“I was convinced that in one branch in his family there should have been a Jewish ancestor,” says Moore.
The investigation was progressing slowly, and only after many months the team suddenly made a breakthrough after talking with one of the possible relatives of Paul, who mentioned that there were missing twins in the history of his family.
“That's when we realized we were heading in the right direction,” Moore admits.
3 June 2015, two years after the start of the investigation, Sisi Moore called Paul.
- What do you think of the name Jack? - asked CC.
“Nice name, solid,” Paul replied.
“So that's your name,” she said.
So Paul found out that he was Jack Rosenthal by birth and was actually half a year older than he thought, since he was born on October 27, 1963.
But that was not all: he had another twin sister, Jill. But she, too, like him, has disappeared. So now Paul has another person who needs to be found.
“I don’t think that when you find out that you have a twin, you won’t start looking for this person,” says Cece Moore.
Not just a coincidence
At first, meeting with relatives pleased him. Paul, who was fond of music, was terribly glad that his cousin Lenny Rocco was also a musician. In the 1950s, he was a doo-op vocalist.
“For me, this is the best proof that in order to show your abilities (such as a penchant for music, for example), it is not at all necessary that you were raised by your real parents. They never listened to music in my house, but I've always been into it,” says Paul. “I played in rock bands all my life, so when I finally met my real relatives, I immediately sat down and played with Lenny’s team.”
Sisi Moore, who managed to reunite thousands of relatives, admits that she constantly observes this phenomenon.
“People who grew up in families with different lifestyles meet, and they have so much in common! - says the geneticist detective. - And the point is not even how they look externally. The point is what actions they did in life, whom they married or who they married, how they named their children, what profession they chose - down to such strange details as choosing a password for a mobile phone ”.
“I am absolutely sure that there is much more written into our DNA than we realize. Things like this can't just be a coincidence,” she says.
However, not all relatives of Paul welcomed him with open arms, and soon he found out that his biological family has an unattractive side.
His mother, Marie, was an alcoholic, and his father Gilbert returned from the Korean War, angry at the whole world.
There were also signs that Paul and his twin sister Jill did not receive proper care from their parents, who had two older daughters, as well as a son who was younger than twins. Family members recalled that the twins were constantly crying, and one of the relatives said that he had seen how the children were caged.
No one knows exactly what exactly happened, but every time a relative asked for twins, their parents said that one of the relatives was looking after them, although in reality this was not the case. Paul believes that something terrible must have happened to Jill, and this prompted their parents to get rid of Jack, because, he said, they could not explain why there was only one twin left.
In his book "Found" (The Foundling) Paul describes all the details of his relentless and sometimes even risky search for answers to all these questions.
At one point he even dug up the whole garden in the house where Rosentali had once lived, hoping to find the remains of his sister there.
“My real parents were not very nice people. I am grateful to them that they left me, because as a result of this I ended up in the Fronzac family. They saved my life, ”admits Paul.
He reconciled with his adoptive parents two years after he learned the results of the DNA test, and then for the first time the three of them were able to calmly discuss everything.
“Now I know that all those experiences changed my mother. She still carries that guilt with her for putting her Paul in the hands of that “nurse,” Paul explains. “Even though she understands that in the hospital you usually listen when you are told to do something. The nurse says, "I need to take your baby," and you hand him over. But it’s something she can’t put up with all her life.”
Dora also gave Paul an album of photographs and letters that were given to her by the Eckert spouses, the foster family that raised Paul for a year after his parents left him, and gave him the name Scott McKinley at baptism.
“Mom has had this album all my life, but she never told me about it. Sadness rolls over me, because these are my very first photos. Even my real family doesn't have any photos of me in my early childhood. My grandmother has an album with all the children in chronological order, and the page with the twins is torn out, ”says Paul Fronzak.
Paul's father Chester died last August, but Paul talks to his mother several times a week. On October 27, Dora will turn 82 years old. As it turned out, they share the same birthday with Paul.
She has mixed feelings about the book he has released.
“She wouldn't want me to be so frank, but I wrote it honestly,” Paul admits.
And yet he does not give up and intends to get to the bottom of what happened to the child of his adoptive mother Dora. He still pays for the services of a private detective investigating this crime, and says that the next step will be to exhume the body.
In fact, even two bodies. Paul explains: "We have one very powerful version of the real Paul, and another one that might lead us to my twin sister."
Exhumation is a complicated and expensive procedure, but Paul does not stop it, since there are too many blank spots in this business.
“This investigation is far from over,” he says.
He is now divorced from his second wife, but they have maintained friendly relations. Paul admits that his obsession with investigating his past may have been the indirect reason for their divorce.
“At some point, I just couldn’t do anything else, I was only doing what was connected with the investigation,” says Paul, adding that he has no regrets. - It's something I have to do. It makes life easier for me.”
The investigation also helped him to better understand himself and why he could not resist anywhere.
“Those first two years of my life shaped me: I can part with anyone, quit any job, get out of any situation and not even look back. It seems to me that this is due to the fact that I had three childhoods, three different “I” at such an early age. It's all about my adaptability to the situation in order to survive. So I have tomorrow, ”explains Paul Fronzac.
Sisi Moore also thought more than once about how all these events influenced Paul in infancy and what happened to him in the months when she was examined by the FBI.
“Why did they decide that this is Paul Fronzak? Were there any signs of physical trauma on the boy that could be misinterpreted as being the kidnapped child and not some infant from a dysfunctional family?” she asks.
Daughter of Paul Emma, who is now nine years old, was taken with humor by the news that her dad was actually called Jack, and sometimes calls him that, making fun of him.
However, Paul decided that he would not change his name yet.
“I will be Paul until I find the real Paul. The day I find him, I will give him his birth certificate and then I will apply for my own.”
The FBI declined to comment.