Imagine being an imposter in your own life. This became the reality following the result of one DNA test confirming for a 49-year-old man that his whole existence had been a lie. His name, age, birthdate and even those who he called mom and dad, were all false.
The identity journey of Fronczak began when he took his first breath. He was not switched at birth but stolen from his mother’s arms. This was the first event that sparked his mission in locating the real Paul, while discovering his own identity along the way.
The nightmare began on the morning of April 25, 1964, at Michael Reese Hospital in downtown Chicago. Parents, Chester and Dora Fronczak, had welcomed their new baby boy into the world.
At the time of the abduction, Marie Trenchard Petrie, a student nurse who had been working in the maternity ward, was tending to Mrs. Fronczak.
“I knew that Dora had already lost a baby the previous year and this one was alive and well, so she had taken a deep breath that they had made it,” Marie said.
Just moments later a woman dressed as a nurse made like a thief in the night and took the baby from his mother’s arms.
Once the kidnapping was reported to the Chicago Police Department, law enforcement struggled with the hospital’s central location near the train station, airport and highway that would allow the suspect to disappear within five minutes.
The next day, on April 26, the police released a $10,000 reward for the safe return of baby Paul but to no avail.
After a deafening 15 months, the FBI received a hit on July 2, 1965, as an abandoned baby in a stroller was discovered on a Newark, New Jersey sidewalk that the Chicago Police Department believed to be the stolen baby from the previous year.
After this discovery, Jane Eckert, from a foster care agency, adopted this toddler into her home where his name would be Scott McKinley, until he was “reunited” with his Chicago family.
Ten years later, 11-year-old Paul was snooping in the basement for Christmas presents when he came upon a box that contained newspaper headlines about him.
When he asked his mother about the articles, she swept it aside as if not to disturb their seemingly perfect family life compared to that of a Rockwell painting.
“We never discussed things. My parents just wanted to move forward from a traumatic experience,” Paul said.
So as a teen, Paul began to rebel as he felt different from his brother, David Fronczak, who fit the family mold, prompting him to pack up his things and leave the nest.
However, once Paul had eventually settled down, with a family of his own, he was curious to discover the truth about his heritage.
After getting swabs from his parents and later going against their will to send them in for testing, he was delivered the news that in fact he was not Paul Joseph Fronczak.
Though, once his story went public after interviewing with George Knapp and Barbara Walters, a genealogist, Cece Moore, gave him a call.
After long hours of digging, Cece was successful in pinpointing Paul’s second cousin, Alan Fisch, knowing that they would share great grandparents when examining their family tree.
This led her to Lenny Rocco, a retired boxer in South Philadelphia who shared 6 percent of DNA with Paul determining that one of his cousins would be Paul’s parent.
A couple by the names, Gilbert and Marie Rosenthal, had twins, a boy and a girl, who vanished. Their names were Jack and Jill.
Many including their own siblings had no knowledge of their existence as there is suspicion of neglect as expressed by, Susan Wohlert, who once babysat the Rosenthal children when she was a teenager.
“The parents said not to bother with the twins upstairs. I went to check on them and when I walked into the room it was only the cribs. They were dirty with black eyes and looked numb and afraid. The parents never came home that night,” Wohlert said.
That said, the real Paul was recently found living in northern Michigan with his three daughters but wished to remain anonymous.
In Dora Fronczak’s first and last conversation with her real son before he passed away from stage four cancer, she was able to say both hello and goodbye.
“It was such a thrill to hear his voice. It was hard talking to my son, knowing that I was speaking to a stranger,” Dora said.
When asked about the day many years ago when she said yes to who she thought was Paul, Dora has no regrets.
“If I had said no, I would have lived with it for my entire life. I found peace with it. I felt that I had the answer, and I was right.”
As for Jill, Jack is still searching for his long-lost twin.