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State

FBI reopens case of Chicago infant kidnapped in 1964

(MCT) — The FBI has reopened its investigation into the kidnapping of a newborn from a Chicago hospital almost half a century ago.

The boy, named Paul Joseph Fronczak, was snatched from the former Michael Reese Hospital in 1964 by a woman posing as a nurse. Fourteen months later, a toddler abandoned in Newark, N.J., who resembled the missing child was returned to Fronczak's parents after an investigation by the FBI.

But earlier this year, lab tests of DNA swabs from Fronczak's parents determined that he was not the infant taken from Michael Reese.

On Wednesday, Joan Hyde, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Chicago, confirmed that the bureau is looking into the mystery again. Investigators are reviewing the original evidence, said Hyde, who called it "a lucky break" that the files were located.

"It was deemed appropriate to take a fresh look at the evidence that we have and possibly re-interview (witnesses) that are still around," she said.

Some physical evidence might benefit from modern testing, Hyde said, but she declined to elaborate. At the time of the kidnapping, the Tribune reported that the hospital had not taken prints of the baby's fingers or feet before he was abducted.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Fronczak said federal investigators told him they were reinvestigating the kidnapping during a visit to his home in Nevada three weeks ago. He had sought the DNA swabs from his parents because of lingering suspicions that he was not their biological son.

"I feel like I'm one step closer to solving these two tragic mysteries and one step closer to a happy ending," Fronczak said.

Fronczak has said his parents, Chester and Dora, told him that they support his desire to solve the mystery but said it's too painful for them to be involved. The parents, who live in Oak Lawn, have previously declined comment on the turn of events and did not return a call for comment Wednesday.

Fronczak said he's optimistic about the renewed FBI probe even though he knows the difficulties facing authorities so many years later in trying to figure out his identity and what happened to his parents' biological child.

"I'm in this for the long haul. I'm not going to quit," he said. "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. It would also be nice to have an actual birth date that I could believe in."

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©2013 the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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