A Henderson man who learned five years ago that his name, birth date, and genetic history were all wrong says he now knows many of the details of his life and family history.
The I-Team first broke the story about Paul Fronczak four years ago this week. Since then, the strange tale has been reported all over the world. It involves a famous kidnapping, a nationwide manhunt, and a lot of heartache.
The last time we heard from the man known as Paul Fronczak, he was hot on the trail of clues about his birth family, and was estranged from the parents who raised him. Since then, he’s had face-to-face encounters with long lost relatives, has patched things up with his adoptive parents, and has learned the hard way about that old adage — be careful what you wish for.
As he entered a New Jersey trailer park and the home of a woman he believed to be his sister, Paul Fronczak was excited and apprehensive.
“I knocked for about 15 minutes and nobody answered and I wasn’t going to give up. I just kept knocking and finally I saw movement and then she came and opened the door and I said, ‘I’m Paul. I’m your brother’ and she said, ‘I know who you are, come on in,'” Paul Fronczak said.
The face-to-face meeting with his long-lost sister was one of many highs and lows of Fronczak’s roller coaster attempt to resolve multiple mysteries. His tumultuous journey began in 2012 when a drug store DNA test revealed something he had long suspected that he wasn’t Paul Fronczak after all. He’d been raised in Chicago by two loving parents, Chester and Dora, but always felt that he didn’t quite fit in. When the I-Team reported the DNA results, it caused a deep rift with his parents.
“We didn’t talk for almost three years,” Fronczak said. “It was pretty bad. My mom took it like I wanted to find new parents, I wasn’t happy with them but that couldn’t be further from the truth. My parents are amazing parents. They made me who I am, and I wanted to do the best I could and that would be to find their real son.”
His suspicions were first aroused at age 10, when he found a hidden stack of news clippings which told the sensational story — the 1964 kidnapping of newborn Paul. A woman dressed as a nurse somehow walked out of a Chicago hospital with the baby, setting off a frantic nationwide manhunt. But the kidnapper and victim were never located.
More than a year later, a boy was found abandoned on a street in Newark, New Jersey on the same spot this recent photo was taken. The mystery boy was given the name Scott McKinley. Evidence linking him to the Fronczaks was slim, but the parents were certain. They adopted him and he was raised as Paul.
After DNA evidence proved in 2013 that he wasn’t a Fronczak, the story was picked up by other media, and tips poured into a Facebook page the I-Team created. Several genealogy researchers including Ancestry.com and DNA Detective Cece Moore devoted thousands of hours to the mystery. By back engineering Paul’s DNA, they found a cousin, Alan Frisch, then Alan’s biological father, Lenny Rocco, a former boxer and doo-wop singer. Lenny introduced Paul to other members of his new family, who welcomed him with open arms. Paul even had a chance to play with Lenny’s band.
Paul Fronczak: “He was best friends with my dad, my biological dad.”
It was Cece Moore who first told Paul that his birth name was Jack, and his family name.
Paul Fronczak: “Rosenthal.”
His full birth name was Jack Thomas Rosenthal.
Paul’s team dug up public records and news clippings to show his father was Gilbert Rosenthal. His mother was Marie. Both are now deceased, and he visited their grave sites. The more he learned about his biological parents, the darker the story became. A death certificate shows the father had worked in law enforcement on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. Family members say the father had connections to mobster Nicky Scarfo, and was not well liked.
“He was in the military in the Korean War. When he came back, he was a very mean guy. From talking to my real sister, and she said that when he died, nobody went to his funeral, not even his wife,” Fronczak said.
Paul’s mother wasn’t a model parent either.
“My mom was a heavy drinker, very abusive. I haven’t heard good things about either parent.
There were five Rosenthal children. One sibling had died. A sister, two years older, initially was excited to reconnect, then abruptly cut off all contact. A brother, one year younger, did the same after Paul spoke to him by phone.
“Then all of a sudden, he sent an email that said, ‘I want nothing to do with you, I don’t believe you. I think it’s a scam. Don’t ever contact me again,'” he said.
But there was another, bigger surprise still lurking. Birth records show that Jack Rosenthal had been born a twin. His sister was named Jill, but she vanished at a young age.
“She might have been dropped off, and she’s alive and well, and if she is, I’m going to find her. Still feel that something tragic happened because why would you abandon your twins when you have two older children?”
The disappearance of his twin sister Jill sparked a new round of digging by Paul literally and figuratively. He also has new clues about biological Paul, the boy kidnapped from the hospital, and he’s written a book about his journey. It’s called “The Foundling.”
Paul Fronczak will having a book signing Saturday, April 29, 2017 at 6 p.m. at Barnes and Noble, 567 North Stephanie, Henderson.