MYSTERY WIRE — In the movies, the Paul Fronczak story would have a happy ending. A tearful reunion, and cue the music. But real life is messy.
Nothing about this twisted mystery has been easy. None of the secrets have been willingly surrendered. We reported last week that an announcement was likely and imminent. It hasn’t worked out that way.
A composite likeness, age-progressed by a forensic artist, was released in 2017 — a best guess about what Paul Fronczak might look like as an adult. The only known photo of Fronczak was taken just after he was born in 1964, hours before he was kidnapped from a Chicago hospital by a woman posing as a nurse. The crime sparked a nationwide manhunt and worldwide media firestorm, but baby Paul — and his kidnapper — were never found.
Fast forward to 2013. Investigative reporter George Knapp broke the story of a Nevada man who was raised to believe he was the real Paul Fronczak. DNA evidence proved otherwise.
“I’d like to know who I am, my birthday, how old I am? But more important: Is the real baby alive and still out there?” Fronczak asked.
He launched an effort to solve two mysteries: What became of biological Paul? And where is his own birth family?
He now has some answers to both.
Backed by his own investigators and DNA experts, Fronczak succeeded in locating his blood relatives a few years ago. His birth name, he learned, was Jack Rosenthal. His parents are both dead, but he has siblings, including a brother who, after hearing the story, wanted no part of it.
“Then all of the sudden, he sent me an email that said, “I want nothing to do with you. I don’t believe you. I think it’s a scam. Don’t ever contact me again.”
Fronczak was stunned, but continued to pursue the other unknown: biological Paul.
More than a year ago, the Fronczak family learned the location and identity of the kidnap victim. The information came out of the blue when members of biological Paul’s extended family in Michigan became aware of the renewed search, put some pieces together on their own, and reached out to the Fronczaks in Chicago, according to persons familiar with the investigation.
DNA evidence confirmed it — the man in Michigan is baby Paul.
Earlier this week, a team from Chicago’s WGN TV followed the trail of breadcrumbs to a rural Michigan town, found the man, and spoke to him. He confirmed that he knew about the Fronczak mystery and that he’d been in touch with the FBI. But he said he is not ready to come forward. Nor has he made plans to reunite with the birth mother, Dora Fronczak, whose husband Chester died in 2017.
Dora Fronczak has declined to comment. Her adopted son Paul has likewise declined to say anything, in deference to the wishes of the man in Michigan.
The FBI issued a statement indicating the investigation is ongoing, and asking for “privacy for the victims.”
The man in Michigan is a very private person who has been battling serious health issues, so becoming the center of a national media blitz is not something he would welcome.
He lives in a small town, and once his extended family learned the truth, it started a buzz around town. There were indications that a Michigan newspaper had the story and was ready to break it. But that changed at the last minute, likely for the same reason everyone else has withheld the name – at the request of the kidnap victim.
Nevada’s Paul Fronczak has known the man’s identity for a year, but it took months of work to confirm the information. He promised he would not reveal the name until biological Paul was ready to step forward. He’s kept that promise.