Michael Reese Hospital via Chicago Tribune - MCT / Getty Images
Paul Joseph Fronczak shortly after he was born at Michael Reese Hospital on April 26, 1964. The baby was abducted a few days after he was born.
As the FBI dusts off its files on a 1964 kidnapping and reunion mixup, the man at the center of the case has uncovered a tantalizing clue through his own sleuthing.
Paul Fronczak, 49, used a home DNA test earlier this year to reveal that he is not the biological son of the couple who raised him. They had mistakenly believed that a toddler found abandoned in New Jersey was their son, who had been abducted from a hospital in Chicago a year earlier.
Now, Fronczak is using the genealogy website Ancestry.com to discover his true identity and has determined — again with DNA — that a third and a fourth cousin are registered with the site, a spokesman said.
While the Henderson, Nev., college administrator has not made contact with the cousins yet, they would be the first leaves on a family tree that is otherwise bare.
Third cousins share a great-great grandparent and people can have hundreds of them, so Fronczak's search is far from over. Still, the genetic matches derived from a $99 saliva test offered by the genealogy website are his best chance of unlocking a half-century-old mystery.
"The more people that take the DNA test, the higher the probability that Paul will find a second cousin or even first cousin," Ancestry.com said in a statement.
What Fronczak knows about his past is frustratingly scant. He was left outside a Newark variety store in 1965, taken to an orphanage and named Scott McKinley.
A baby boy snatched from a hospital in 1964 was assumed to be a child later found abandoned in Newark, NJ – but DNA tests have recently proven he was not the child taken from the hospital after all. Now investigators are trying to find out what happened to the stolen baby. NBC's Pete Williams reports.
FBI agents investigating the kidnapping of a one-day-old baby boy from a Chicago hospital decided young Scott and the missing son of Chester and Dora Fronczak had the same ears.
This was in the days before DNA testing, so there was no scientific way to prove the snatched infant and the found toddler were one and the same, but the Fronczaks were convinced and adopted the boy.
It wasn't until years later that Paul learned about the kidnapping, which planted nagging questions about why he didn't look like his parents. Last year, he decided to get some answers with a $29.99 DNA test made by Identigene, which showed he was not related to the Fronczaks.
He broke the news to them in a heart-tugging email.
"Wouldn’t you and Dad like to know what really happened, and who I really am?" he wrote. "Like I said, I love you both and you have been wonderful parents. I am not doing this to hurt you or discredit the fabulous job you both did in raising me … This is just about finding out the truth!"
In the search for that truth, the FBI has now reopened its long-dormant probe into the hospital kidnapping.
"We decided it merited another look," said Joan Hyde, a spokeswoman for the Chicago office. "The main thing is to look at physical evidence and see if technology and tests that weren't available when the case was originally worked could provide leads."
Reached at home in suburban Chicago, Dora Fronczak said Thursday that she did not want to comment on the case.
Paul Fronczak told the Chicago Tribune that he is set on answering two questions: What happened to the baby spirited out of the hospital by a woman dressed as a nurse on April 27, 1964, and how did he end up parked in his stroller on a New Jersey street corner on July 2, 1965?
“I think that the perfect ending would be to find the real Paul, see that he’s doing well and then on the same day find my real family," he said.