I-Team: DNA Used to Help Solve Mystery of Man's True Identity - 8 News NOW

I-Team: DNA Used to Help Solve Mystery of Man's True Identity

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Paul Fronczak as a child. Paul Fronczak as a child.
Paul Fronczak with the couple who raised him as their son. Paul Fronczak with the couple who raised him as their son.
Dr. Ken Chachine, a biochemist with Ancestry.com talks with George Knapp. Dr. Ken Chachine, a biochemist with Ancestry.com talks with George Knapp.

HENDERSON, Nev. -- A dual mystery that has persisted for nearly half a century is a few steps closer to being solved.

The I-Team has learned that the FBI has re-opened the Paul Fronczak kidnapping case, a story that made national headlines back in 1964 and again this year following exclusive stories by the I-Team.

As a matter of policy, the FBI will not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation therefore the bureau will not comment on the record. The I-team has learned that the Chicago office of the FBI has fired up its investigation of a mind-boggling mystery involving a Henderson man.

Paul Fronczak is the man who no longer knows who he is. He thought he was the son of a Chicago couple, who lost their baby to a kidnapper in 1964, but a DNA test confirmed the shocking truth -- he isn't a Fronczak after all.

Since the story was first reported earlier this year, media interest has exploded, tips have poured in from the public, and progress is being made toward solving the dual mysteries.

Fronczak encouraged the couple who raised him to take a DNA test to see if they were his biological parents. Fronczak has taken at least five tests, the most recent one at the request of two Chicago FBI agents who visited his home two weeks ago.

A home DNA test taken last year is how Fronczak learned the shocking news that he isn't the person he thought he was.

"I was actually at work when I got the results, and the next hour, I was kind of sitting there just staring at my desk, you know," he said.

The confusion began in April 1964 when a woman dressed as a nurse walked into a Chicago hospital and walked out with newborn Paul Fronczak, son of Chester and Dora Fronczak. The kidnapping set off a nationwide manhunt and media frenzy.

View a Timeline and Newspaper Clippings of the Fronczak Case

More than a year later, the FBI focused its attention on a child found abandoned in New Jersey and given the name Scott McKinley. Agents tested his blood and skin and thought his ears were similar to the missing Fronczak baby. They couldn't quite say Scott was the missing Paul, but couldn't rule it out either.

Paul was adopted by the Fronczak's and grew up believing he was their son, that is, until that first DNA test last year. Since the I-Team's first report months ago, the story has generated world-wide media attention, but still, no solution to the dual mysteries -- where is Paul -- and where is Scott's blood family?

Fronczak said he is thrilled by the FBI decision to re-open the case, but in the meantime he has been pursuing his own investigation with the help of the world's largest genealogy company -- Ancestry.com.

"The single biggest reason people come in and take the DNA test is they want to understand their past," said Dr. Ken Chachine, a biochemist with Ancestry.com. "The ethnicity test is a great way to get started to say where did my ancestors come from?"

Ancestry.com of Provo, Utah has an astounding data base with 11 billion public records, 5 billion names, and 40 million family trees. Every day, an army of researchers ingests a library's worth of paper -- from the Honolulu phone book to 100-year-old London newspapers.

Millions of people have used the service to track down their family trees.

"With paper records, they hit a brick wall, can't go back further. The DNA has been amazing at connecting you to another individual," Chachine said.

The company added DNA testing a few years ago and now has the world's most extensive DNA data base. Each DNA test looks at 700,000 markers that allow for comparisons to DNA samples from all over the world. They can help customers identify where their ancestors are from, but also to learn the names of existing blood relatives.

"On average, our customers are finding 20 to 30 fourth cousins right off the bat because our data base is so big," Chachine said.

He emphasizes though, that the company is not a detective agency. It doesn't do paternity tests, drug screens, or arrange for family reunions.

Paul Fronczak says the DNA test he provided has already turned up tantalizing results -- the name of a third cousin to Scott McKinley and a surprise too. His ethnicity is European, as he suspected, but he recently learned he is part Jewish.

"It's a unique story in one sense. It's very common in another, common in the fact that everyone wants to know where they come from, what their ancestry is," Chachine said.

Fronczak is hoping to get answers, not only for himself and his family, but also for the kindly couple who raised him and who will always be his parents.

"If I could get an answer for them, that would be the best gift I could give them. It's a sad thing to tell them, but it could be a great thing at the end," Fronczak said.

The I-Team has learned that a massive pile of files on the kidnapping case has been retrieved by the FBI and is under review. The Las Vegas office is also participating though the FBI will not comment on the record.

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The discovery of Fronczak's third cousin is promising but not a lock because, typically, each of us has a few thousand third cousins, and few people keep in touch with all of them. If or when contact is made with Fronczak's blood relatives, the I-Team will have the story.

8NewsNOW.com has a web page devoted to the case where you can post comments or tips. 

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