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Son of Infamous 'Welfare Queen' Believes His Mom Stole Baby Paul Fronczak in 1964

ABC's 20/20 chases tip that leads FBI to take another look at Linda Taylor as culprit in famous Chicago baby snatching.

Baby Paul Fronczak, in a photo taken hours before he was taken from Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago in 1964.
Baby Paul Fronczak, in a photo taken hours before he was taken from Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago in 1964.

A Chicago man has come forward and claims his mother — the notorious "Welfare Queen" vilified by Ronald Reagan — kidnapped Baby Paul Fronczak from Michael Reese Hospital on the South Side in 1964.

Johnnie Harbaugh told ABC News 20/20 that as a teen he played with the baby and called him "Tiger" until the baby boy was taken away by one of his mother's boyfriends and never seen again.

Harbaugh said his mother, Linda Taylor, was an expert con artist and a master of disguise. He said she had many wigs and nurse's uniforms in her closet.

Harbaugh's tip is the latest twist in a case that was believed to be solved a half century ago.

But the Fronczaks were thrust again last fall into the pain of not knowing the fate of their baby boy. For almost 50 years, they believed a child found in New Jersey a year after the kidnapping was their son. Without DNA or fingerprints to go on, the FBI matched the shape of that child's ear to a photograph of the Fronczak's baby.

Chester and Dora Fronczak raised that boy in Oak Lawn as Paul, all the while thinking he was their flesh and blood.

But Paul Fronczak, as he grew older, saw he bore little resemblance to his parents and his brother. And last year, he took a DNA test — over his parents' objections — that proved he was not their biological child.

"I feel kind of like an imposter because I am still using his birth certificate. Paul is out there," the 49-year-old Fronczak told ABC News' Barbara Walters. "I have his birth certificate. ... I want to give it to him, and I want to find mine."

The FBI has re-opened this cold case, and 20/20 is working with Paul Fronczak, who lives in Nevada, not only to find the real Fronczak baby but to help the man raised by the Fronczak learn where he came from. The Fronczaks have declined interviews for years, but this week they offered their first statement to ABC News: “We wish Paul well in his search…” and “we continue to cooperate with the FBI… in our hope for answers.”

Johnnie Harbaugh's interview with 20/20 was broadcast Saturday, March 15, and he believes he may have at least one of the answers.

“My mother was capable of anything. Not only stealing a baby, but she could steal you,” Johnnie Harbaugh said in the interview. "She was just that kind of woman. You know, she done whatever it took for her to survive.”

The Fronczak baby was stolen just one day after his birth, on April 27, 1964, when a woman disguised as a nurse walked into the hospital and told Dora Fronczak the doctor needed her baby for an examination. She took the child from his mother's arms, left the hospital, got into a taxi and disappeared.

Chicago Police and the FBI poured massive resources into the case, and at one point they even looked at Linda Taylor as a suspect. In the 1970s, Taylor stood trial for welfare fraud and a local newspaper reported that an ex-husband of Taylor's said she appeared one day with a newborn baby though she hadn't been pregnant.

Isaiah Gant, Taylor’s lawyer during her trial in the 1970s, told ABC News she never spoke of it to him but he could believe she's the culprit.

“I’m telling you, the woman was just a chameleon,” he said. “She could be anything. So I couldn’t rule out the possibility that she could be involved in something like that.”

ABC News began looking at Taylor after receiving a tip line clue. “The baby was stolen by a lady known as the ‘welfare queen,’” the tip said. “She had many, many schemes to get money and would have most likely sold the baby.”

That tip led them to Harbaugh, who says he's filled with regret. He could have turned her in, but he was in trouble with the law himself.

“I mean, there’s nothing I could say to them," he said. "I couldn’t apologize enough for not turning her in."

The FBI has told ABC News they are taking a fresh look at Taylor as the kidnapper.

Learn more on 20/20's website
PAT FETTA March 19, 2014 at 03:14 PM
Marie, you are so correct; unfortunately, the people involved in this who ended up with the baby (if still alive) will never come forward as they knowingly broke the law. I hope this Taylor is laying on a bed of coals where she belongs after everything she has done to this family. As far as all these welfare cheaters that are abusing the system, I think they should be drug tested but then their tons of children that they can't afford in the first place will be the ones that suffer. I do believe in helping people that fall on hard times but most of these people make welfare and living off the government a way of life.
Magilla Gorilla March 20, 2014 at 09:08 PM
Approx. numbers.. Non-Hispanic Whites in America 63%. Blacks 12%. Public Aid difference 15% for Whites. 10% for Blacks. High Percentage of Whites on Public Aid. By the way, it is... I COULDN'T Care Less. Meaning.. You don't care one bit.
Magilla Gorilla March 20, 2014 at 09:21 PM
Sorry, I meant Higher Percentage.
frank March 21, 2014 at 01:36 PM
First full day of Spring, the day is bright and we still have the same ole Patch. ##################
sklogw March 23, 2014 at 03:16 PM
It's a shame that the lawyer would represent her. I guess the welfare queen was not the only one that would do anything for a buck. Where was his morals?

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