FBI reopens 1964 stolen baby case
By Stefano Esposito Sun-Times Media August 7, 2013 10:29PM
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 3:01PM
In 1965, the shape of an abandoned toddler’s ear helped convince FBI agents that they had found Paul Fronczak, a newborn from Oak Lawn who had been kidnapped from Michael Reese Hospital a year earlier.
They were wrong — leading a boy, and later a man, to live under a false identity for nearly 50 years.
But now, the 21st century version of facial recognition analysis, as well as DNA testing, may help the FBI track down the real Paul Fronczak.
The FBI announced Wednesday that it has reopened the 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 Chicago and beyond when a woman, disguised as a nurse, walked into Michael Reese on April 27, 1964, and told Dora Fronczak that her newborn son was needed for an examination. The woman took the baby, got into a taxi and the two never were seen again.
Hundreds of Chicago police officers and FBI agents took part in a massive search for the baby. In July 1965, an abandoned boy resembling the missing baby turned up in Newark, N.J.
Without DNA or fingerprints, there was no proof he was Chester and Dora Fronczak’s missing son, but the couple clung to that belief because investigators suggested that the child was likely theirs. The Fronczaks raised the boy in their home in Oak Lawn.
The tragic story made new headlines this year when Paul Fronczak, who lives in Nevada, revealed that the results of DNA testing showed that he isn’t Chester and Dora Fronczak’s son.
Since then, Fronczak has been on a mission to learn his true identity and find the real Paul Fronczak.
In an email Wednesday, Fronczak said he was “very happy to see the FBI reopen the case. I feel I am one step closer to solving these two tragic mysteries, and one step closer to a very happy ending!”
Fronczak knows that his search is painful for his adoptive parents, who still reside in Oak Lawn.
In a brief interview in June, Dora Fronczak told the Chicago Sun-Times they don’t want to relive the past. And on Wednesday, Chester Fronczak told a reporter he wasn’t interested in chatting.
But the Fronczaks’ help may prove vital in learning the truth. The FBI has obtained DNA samples from the couple to run through its database in search of a possible match, Hyde said.
She said the focus of the investigation centers on the kidnapping in Chicago but may progress to involve the abandoned toddler in Newark who has led a life as Paul Fronczak.
“It’s possible he was a victim of a crime himself,” Hyde said.