The Story Of Paul Fronczak, The Kidnapped Newborn Who Was Returned To The Wrong Parents

Published June 12, 2023
Updated June 14, 2023

The mistake wasn't uncovered until nearly 50 years later when the now-adult Paul Fronczak decided to take a DNA test and discovered he wasn't related to his mom or dad.

Baby Paul Fronczak

GettyPolice only had an image of newborn Paul Fronczak to try to identify the kidnapped baby.

In 1964, a newborn went missing from a Chicago hospital. More than a year later, police found a boy matching the missing child’s description. The grieving parents celebrated the return of their son. They boxed up the newspaper clippings about the kidnapping, a secret collection of the traumatic event.

Decades later, however, a DNA test would reveal the truth – the child returned to the parents wasn’t the one who had been taken from them.

The Devastating Hospital Kidnapping

The story of Paul Fronczak starts in April 1964, when Dora Fronczak gave birth in a Chicago hospital. Only hours later, a woman posing as a nurse kidnapped Dora’s baby, Paul.

After frantically searching the hospital, staff called Paul’s father, Chester Fronczak. Chester had to leave his factory job to tell Dora their son was missing.

The manhunt for Paul Fronczak was the largest in Chicago’s history. The FBI and Chicago police, joined by 175,000 postal workers, searched 600 homes the day Paul was kidnapped.

As authorities searched for the missing newborn, Dora and Chester Fronczak saw their tragedy become front-page news. The devastated parents turned to the media to help find their son. “Please return the baby,” Dora begged, hoping the kidnapper would hear.

Dora Chester Fronczak

Bettmann Archive/Getty ImagesIn a press conference, Dora Fronczak said, “We just want our baby back, and hope she will please take care of him.”

Finding Paul seemed impossible. Police cautioned that “blood type and ear shape were about the only leads they had.” In total, authorities ended up examining 10,000 babies, hoping one might be Paul. But none of the tests matched.

But police in Newark, New Jersey, would find an abandoned child with a black eye that they thought could be a match. His description seemed to match Paul Fronczak, and as soon as Dora saw the boy, she declared that it was him. The family was reunited.

But Dora was wrong.

Discovering The Fronczak Family Secret

When Paul Fronczak was 10 years old, he discovered the family secret. While searching for Christmas presents, Paul uncovered a box filled with sympathy letters and yellowing newspaper articles.

Paul Fronczak Rescued

Paul FronczakAuthorities believed they had found missing child Paul Fronczak in 1966. But decades later, a DNA test would upend the story.

Scanning through the clippings, Paul saw headlines like “Mother asks kidnapper to return baby.” The ten-year-old realized the articles were about him. He ran to ask his mother, Dora, about the story. But Dora wasn’t happy that Paul had discovered the missing chapter in the family’s history.

“Yes, you were kidnapped,” Dora told her son. “We found you, we love you, and that’s all you need to know.”

Chester and Dora made it clear that they didn’t want to discuss the kidnapping. But Paul Fronczak kept the newspaper articles.

As he grew older, Fronczak learned more about the kidnapping. “My dad had to leave work, go to the hospital and tell his wife that the baby was missing,” Fronczak later recalled. “You think you’re safe – you’re in a hospital – and that’s where your baby is kidnapped.”

By 2008, Fronczak had become a father himself. And he wanted to know if the authorities were right – was he actually the kidnapped newborn? Or was the real Paul Fronczak still missing?

DNA Testing Paul Fronczak

Paul Fronczak spent decades wondering if he was related to the couple that had raised him.

“For years I had wanted to do a DNA test with my parents,” Fronczak admitted. “Not because I wasn’t happy, I just wanted to know the truth.”

But over the years, he put it off. “I had always found a reason not to do it – I didn’t want to hurt them – but there came a point when I needed to know.”

Paul Fronczak In His Younger Years

Paul Fronczak Paul Fronczak, left, with father Chester Fronczak and a younger brother.

Finally, in 2012, Fronczak bought an over-the-counter DNA test in a store. The next time his parents visited, Fronczak asked his parents: “Have you ever wondered if I’m your real son?”

While Dora and Chester reluctantly agreed to the test, they quickly changed their minds. But Paul sent off the swabs anyway. The results proved that Paul was not related to either of his parents.

Once again, the story became national news. Dora and Chester, furious with Paul, refused to speak with him for a year.

Finding The Real Paul Fronczak

With the news that Paul Fronczak was not the newborn kidnapped from a Chicago hospital in 1964, the FBI reopened the case.

Over two years later, in 2015, Paul Fronczak discovered that he was born Jack Rosenthal on October 27, 1963. But that wasn’t the end of the story. Fronczak also learned that he had a twin sister named Jill. Both Jack and Jill went missing as babies.

Fronczak learned from his relatives that his biological mother had been a heavy drinker, and his birth father returned from the Korean War with a violent streak. Worried something terrible had happened to Jill, Fronczak became obsessed with uncovering the truth.

“My real parents were really not very nice people. I’m thankful that they abandoned me because it allowed me to be with the Fronczaks. They saved my life,” Fronczak told the BBC.

Paul Fronczak News Clipping

FacebookNewspapers around the world reported on the disappearance of Paul Fronczak in 1964 – and decades later, the story made the front page again.

After years of searching, another home DNA test cracked the case of what happened to the baby kidnapped in 1964. The child of a Michigan man took a DNA test that showed a connection to Dora and Chester Fronczak. That man – Kevin Baty – was the missing newborn Paul Fronczak.

The woman who raised Kevin had died years earlier, so no one knows how Kevin Baty went from a Chicago hospital to a small Michigan town.

In Dec. 2019, Dora Fronczak spoke with her missing son, Kevin Baty. Dora wanted to know what kind of life Kevin had lived. The pair planned to meet. But time had run out – Baty died from cancer in April 2020.

What Happened To Jill Rosenthal, The Third Missing Child?

The triple disappearance surrounding Paul Fronczak still contains one major unsolved mystery: What happened to Jill Rosenthal, the twin sister of the boy who became known as Paul Fronczak?

Jill vanished around the same time police discovered the two-year-old boy abandoned in New Jersey.

Paul Fronczak And Dora

Paul FronczakPaul Fronczak and his mother, Dora. After solving the mystery of his own past, Paul is still investigating the disappearance of his birth sister, Jill.

“Everything I’ve heard from other members of my family, pretty much made it clear to me that me and my twin sister Jill were abused, neglected and ultimately I was abandoned,” Fronczak said in an interview. “And if she wasn’t murdered by them, then she’s still out there.”

Fronczak continues to look for Jill – and new discoveries could upend the story of the triple disappearance.

DNA testing solved the Paul Fronczak case. Next, read about how a DNA test reunited Melissa Highsmith, kidnapped as a baby, with her family. Then, learn how Carlina White solved her own kidnapping.

Genevieve Carlton
Genevieve Carlton earned a Ph.D in history from Northwestern University with a focus on early modern Europe and the history of science and medicine before becoming a history professor at the University of Louisville. In addition to scholarly publications with top presses, she has written for Atlas Obscura and Ranker.
Jaclyn Anglis
Jaclyn is the senior managing editor at All That's Interesting. She holds a Master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York and a Bachelor's degree in English writing and history (double major) from DePauw University. She is interested in American history, true crime, modern history, pop culture, and science.
Cite This Article
Carlton, Genevieve. "The Story Of Paul Fronczak, The Kidnapped Newborn Who Was Returned To The Wrong Parents.", June 12, 2023, Accessed April 20, 2024.