Paul Fronczak, 49, thought he had been kidnapped from Michael Reese Hospital when he was just two days old and found 14 months later alone in a stroller in Newark, N.J. But he recently learned through DNA testing that there was a mistake: The kidnapped baby and the Newark toddler aren’t the same person. In other words, he’s not the real Paul Fronczak.
Updated: September 9, 2013 2:48PM
In 1965, the shape of an abandoned toddler’s ear helped convince federal investigators that, quite possibly, they had found Paul Fronczak — the newborn baby kidnapped from Michael Reese Hospital a year earlier.
It was a mistaken assumption. But now, the 21st Century version of facial recognition analysis — and DNA — may help the FBI track down the real Paul Fronczak.
The FBI announced Wednesday that they have reopened the nearly 50-year-old case that drew national headlines.
“It’s just an opportunity to look at this, give it a fresh look and perhaps re-interview witnesses,” said Joan Hyde, a spokeswoman for the FBI office in Chicago. “See if new witnesses come forward. We now have the ability to perhaps subject some of the physical evidence to new and previously unavailable forensic examinations.”
The Fronczak case was front-page news in the city and beyond, when a woman — disguised as a nurse — walked into Michael Reese on April 27, 1964, and told Dora Fronczak that her newborn was needed for an examination. The woman took the baby, got in a taxi and the two were never seen again.
Hundreds of Chicago police officers and FBI agents took part in a massive search. In July 1965, an abandoned boy resembling the missing baby turned up in Newark, N.J. Without DNA or fingerprints, there was no proof it was Chester and Dora Fronczak’s infant, but they clung to that belief because investigators suggested the child was likely theirs. The Fronczaks raised that child in their home in Oak Lawn.
The tragic story made headlines earlier this year when a now middle-aged Paul Fronczak, who lives in Nevada, revealed the results of DNA testing showing he isn’t Chester and Dora Fronczak’s son. Ever since, Paul Fronczak has been on a mission to find out his true identity and find the real Paul Fronczak.
“I am very happy to see the FBI reopen the case, thanks to my ruffling the media’s feathers!” Paul Fronczak said in an email Wednesday. “I feel I am one step closer to solving these two tragic mysteries, and one step closer to a very happy ending!”
Still, Fronczak knows that his search is painful for his adoptive parents. In a brief interview in June, Dora Fronczak told the Chicago Sun-Times they don’t want to re-live the past. And on Wednesday, Chester Fronczak told a reporter he wasn’t interested in chatting.
Yet, the Fronczaks’ help may prove vital in learning the truth. Investigators have obtained DNA samples from Dora and Chester Fronczak to run through their database in search of a possible match, Hyde said.
The focus of the investigation centers on the kidnapping in Chicago, Hyde said, but may progress to involve the abandoned toddler in Newark.
“It’s possible he was a victim of a crime himself,” Hyde said.