Return to Transcripts main page

New Day

"The Lost Sons" Premieres Sunday At 9PM ET; Body Found In River Identified As Missing Grad Student Jelani Day; "Toxic: Britney Spears' Battle For Freedom" Airs Sunday At 8PM ET. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired September 24, 2021 - 08:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: When Paul Fronczak was a young boy, he discovered that he'd been kidnapped as a newborn and reunited with his family nearly two years later, or so he thought. As an adult, Paul started doing more research and discovered that everything he thought he knew about himself was actually a lie. Now the new CNN film, "The Lost Sons" takes an intimate look at Paul's story and the unimaginable journey that he has taken searching for himself. Here's a preview.


PAUL J. FRONCZAK, SUBJECT AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, CNN FILM "THE LOST SONS": My mom was upstairs. My dad was at work. I was 10 years old. And I was snooping around the house looking for Christmas presents. And I thought this is a great time to go on the crawlspace because it's -- I know it's a great place to hide presents.

And I saw a bunch of boxes. I thought this is it, the big score, right? It's just like papers and things. It's not a present. I opener, another one, a bunch of cards, more letters and newspaper clippings, I'm like, this isn't Christmas.


So I got a look at one, and it said 500 search for kidnapped baby, another one Fronczak baby still missing. So I started reading it. And it said Paul Joseph Fronczak kidnapped from Michael Reese Hospital. And I saw a picture of my mom and dad. And they look really, really sad and heartbroken and distraught. I thought, wait, that's me. What happened?


KEILAR: Joining us now is the man at the heart of this story. Paul J. Fronczak. And Paul, thank you for being with us to talk about this. It's such an incredible story, so many twists and turns here. Take us back to the beginning. What went through your mind when you were looking at those clippings and realizing, oh my god, this is me?

FRONCZAK: All right, first, thanks for having me. It's a great privilege to be here. My -- when I first saw those clippings, I thought at first like, I'm 10 years old. This is a great story, right? This is crazy. So I mean I was full of excitement. I run upstairs and talk to my mom. She was doing dishes or something. And I just said, Mom, well, what are these clippings? And she said, her face got really red. And she was angry. And she said, what do you snooping on the house for? And I was like, I was taken aback. And she's like, we -- you were kidnapped. We found you. We love you. That's it. We won't talk about this again. So we didn't talk about it again. But I never ever forgot.

KEILAR: But then, you know, fast forward a few decades, you start doing a little more research. And you discover actually, no, I am not Paul Fronczak. Tell us about that.

FRONCZAK: Yes, that's way, way in the future. And that was in 2012. I had often thought about, about finding out for sure. And it took a long time. It took a lot to actually do it. But when I actually did find out, it's like my whole life just vanished before my eyes. It's something that unless it happens to you, it's really hard to explain, because everyone in their life pretty much knows where they came from. And they know everything about themselves. And when all of a sudden you don't know anything, it just changes the whole game for you.

KEILAR: And you had an -- did you have an inkling, you had thoughts, maybe I'm not maybe I'm not the kidnapped Fronczak baby?

FRONCZAK: You know, growing up ahead, you know, I've always had questions. You know, like, I didn't look like my parents. I was drawn to things that I was never exposed to. I was really into music and I taught myself how to play instruments. And I was never exposed to that. But I mean, it's, you know, when you're growing up, you just accept the fact that this is your family. I mean, everyone says, oh, that can't be my family. But in my case, you know, it might have been a little deeper than that.

KEILAR: So you had this feeling that I'm different from this family. And look, we don't want to, I know that you've been on this journey for a long time trying to figure out the truth about who you really are. We don't want to give away too many details. But just tell us a little bit about what this journey has been like, for you.

FRONCZAK: This journey has been, I mean, I've been doing this for nine years now. And it's been full of incredible highs. I mean, like these moments of elation when you find something that is so huge that it just changes everything. And then something really bad happens and you're like, no, there's no way that could be my life. And then if I was watching this in a movie, I would think there's no way this is real. It just -- it was made up. It's a Hollywood thing. But it's real. And it's a journey that just keeps going. And it's the most incredible journey I've ever been on.

KEILAR: Yes, I think it's a journey and a story that is so much about finding yourself. It's about family, and it is look, this is very compelling. And I certainly want our viewers to check it out. It is the all new CNN film "The Lost Sons" that premieres Sunday night at 9:00 Eastern on CNN. Thank you so much, Paul, for being with us.

FRONCZAK: Thank you. Thanks again. [08:39:14]

KEILAR: We do have a tragic update to the mystery surrounding a missing Illinois State graduate student. Jelani Day's mother will join us live.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A tragic update to a mystery out of Illinois, Jelani Day, an Illinois State University grad student went missing a month ago. He was last seen on campus and at a store in Bloomington. His family has been pleading for weeks for any help to find Jelani. And last night his body identified as the one found in a river weeks ago. Jelani was just 25 years old. And joining me now is his mother, Carmen Bolden Day. Thank you so much for being with us. I am so sorry for your loss. How were you told of the news that this body was identified of that as your son?

CARMEN BOLDEN DAY, MOTHER OF JELANI DAY: I was called the day before. It was told that there were some clothes that were found on the riverbank where the body was found. Today is Friday, those clothes were found on Tuesday. No, those clothes were found on Wednesday by two board girls from ISU that decided they will go down to where they found the body. The Peru Police Department called me, sent me pictures of the clothing. At first I didn't recognize the clothing but after looking at the picture last seen when Jelani was at beyond hello. The clothes were definitely his. Then I guess after me being on television and asking for help and pleading for help, the coroner finally called me because I hadn't heard from him nor the Peru Police since September 4th.


They call me he had finally gotten dental records that I had given him information to get back on September 6th my son and tell me he finally obtained dental records, September 21st. And he called me, he has such enthusiasm. He said, Carmen, I found -- we've got dental records for your son. And I said, well, you have me take a DNA to identify for this body so that we pay for the DNA because you tell me that the DNA was the important part because this body was so decomposed. He said to me, do you want to know if this is your son or not?

They were so rude to me. They asked me to come there on Friday, which me and my family did, then they read us the results. Now, suddenly, after 20 something odd days, they now have the DNA results, they now have the dental. See, I was told over a week ago they didn't have the solution to process the DNA.


DAY: I would have to wait longer.

BERMAN: Carmen just so people know, just so people know that the body was found September, this body was found September 4th, and it took them until now, took them until --

DAY: September 4th, my son, we discovered, they discovered his car on September No, I'm sorry, what --

BERMAN: August 26th, yes.

DAY: August 26th, I'm sorry. August 26th, I want his searches done, they be prior to me getting to the spot where his car was failed. They told me that night we've already done an extensive search and we've had this search crew come in, it just didn't seem right to me. So that Saturday --

BERMAN: Have they told you --

DAY: -- I had to organize my own search.

BERMAN: Have they told you and again, the body was found September 4th, and it took until now to identify. Have they given you any information about an investigation into the cause of death?

DAY: No. To them, Jelani didn't mean anything. There's no effort, there's no push. There's no nothing that was being done about my son. I cried and did all the legwork, me and my kids, me and everybody that never knew Jelani, my family friends, strangers did all the legwork. My son didn't get any type of help. And I'm pissed.

BERMAN: I can understand.

DAY: Because he didn't deserve this. Jelani was going to school that was -- he said Mama, him and my youngest daughter, they both were going -- are going to be doctors, Dr. Jelani Day, Dr. Zeina (ph) Day. They have this competition with each other to make sure their GPA stay up. Both of them are in grad school. My wasn't involved in the streets. He wasn't a gangbanger. He wasn't nothing. But I guess if that was that could have been their narrative, then it would have been, oh, let's forget about him. But he was a productive citizen. I raised the good young man. And somebody did this to him. And then they said there yesterday, when they read those results to me and then given me their reports, they implied that Jelani drove himself to Peru, parked his car in this wooded area, walked himself down to this bank, and stripped his car, and got in this water. My son knows how to swim. My son wouldn't have done this, he was not depressed. He was nothing wrong with him. He --


BERMAN: Carmen?

DAY: You know, they know about the challenges of his program.


DAY: Jelani has been in this challenge for four years in undergrad so.

BERMAN: Carmen?

DAY: Yes.

BERMAN: Keep him close -- DAY: I'm sorry.

BERMAN: No, we're sorry. We're sorry for your loss. And we're so sorry for the struggles that you've had over the last month. We want you to keep him close to your heart, you know, keep his memory alive. And you know, we'll help push for answers here as to what happened to your son, Jelani Day. Again, we are thinking of you and thank you so much for being with us.

DAY: Thank you.

BERMAN: We'll be right back.


BERMAN: Britney Spears has been in the public eye for more than two decades. For a large portion of that time, she's lived under a conservatorship. Her finances, many personal decisions tightly controlled. In a new CNN special report, Alisyn Camerota --

KEILAR: Oh yes.

BERMAN: -- spoke to a promotional tour manager who worked with Britney as the conservatorship was beginning. Here's a preview.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: There were reports that on the Circus Tour, she couldn't read certain books. She couldn't have a cell phone. Is that true?


CAMEROTA: What books can she read?

GEORGE: She could only read Christian books.

CAMEROTA: Says who?

GEORGE: Her father.

CAMEROTA: She couldn't have a cell phone.

GEORGE: At times, she did have a cell phone. Her phone was monitored. And the text messages were read, the call logs were there. I don't know whether or not calls were recorded. But the use of the phone was very tightly controlled.

CAMEROTA (voice-over): CNN cannot independently confirm these allegations. Britney says her doctors and therapists were also carefully controlled.

GEORGE: The conservatorship dictated to her who her doctors were going to be, which doctor she was going to see, how often she was going to see them, how long those sessions would be every aspect of her medical care. And not just her medical care was extremely, extremely controlled.

CAMEROTA (voice-over): As was who she could see.

GEORGE: Who she could date, who she could be friends with, was very, very tightly controlled.

CAMEROTA (on camera): The conservatorship told her who she can be friends with.



GEORGE: I think there was a concern that a third party might introduce something to the mix that would be detrimental to the overall structure that was restoring order in her life. And I think the conservatorship did a good job of doing that in the beginning.


CAMEROTA: Meaning they were trying to keep out the riffraff or they were trying to make sure they were protecting the bottom line and this commodity --


CAMEROTA: -- could keep performing.

GEORGE: Well she was treated as more of an object than a human.


BERMAN: Aimee Spears declined to comment on the record about the specifics, but his lawyer did tell us he loved his daughter and dedicated his life to helping her reach her goals. Joining us now is Chloe Melas, CNN entertainment reporter and Alisyn Camerota, legendary television anchor in her first appearance on New Day, since she dumped me.

CAMEROTA: Since all you can get rid of me.

BERMAN: I want to get rid of Britney Spears. I want to get to this documentary, which looks fantastic, by the way, but my first question is, how much do you miss me?

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, so much John, so much. But you've never looked happier or better. I don't know what Brianna is doing. But something agrees with you.

BERMAN: I've had a lot of work done --

CAMEROTA: I'm not happy about it.

BERMAN: -- since you left.

Talk to me about this documentary and what you learn from these people that you spoke with.

CAMEROTA: I learned a lot. I thought I knew what was happening with Britney. I didn't understand why she was in the conservatorship for 13 years. That never made sense. But now I understand it. One of the things that I learned is we kept hearing the term in our reporting the sinister forces around Britney, what does that mean? I thought that it was about her father. There was some sort of family issue between her father and Britney. No, there's a much bigger orbit. And we dive into it about the sinister forces was the term used that had been trying to control her.

BERMAN: Well, you've been on this from the beginning, all the twists and turns here.

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: Oh, yes. Every time I'm going to write about to sit down for dinner, or you know, do something for myself, major Britney news breaks and I am always the one on it with the scoop for you. And if you get lucky, John, we'll invite you to our watch party on Sunday night. Alisyn is going to make --

CAMEROTA: If you get lucky.

MELAS: -- Martini for us Sunday night. I think that the biggest thing here is that, you know, it's much more than Jamie Spears that, you know, Britney was like Alisyn says in the clip this commodity, there was a huge amount of staff. And how did Britney get put under a probate conservatorship? So there's two conservatorships you can be put under in California, there's a mental health one that expires every year, maybe at the time, possibly Britney qualified for that, but a probate conservatorship that's really, really hard to get out of. And it is really for people who cannot clothe themselves, take care of themselves.

CAMEROTA: Yes, function. I mean Britney is high functioning in terms of what she is producing.

MELAS: And so one of the things that Alisyn and I were asking people about and there's a really interesting interview with someone that worked with Britney on her Circus Tour is, hold on. So Judge Riva gets puts Britney under a conservatorship but then she goes on tour, I thought that Britney wasn't high functioning that she couldn't provide for herself, so what gives? So that's what we're going to answer. And then also, you know, you're going to hear from people that you've never heard before. We are really pulling back the curtain here and she did some really good reporting.

BERMAN: That discussion right there was, oh, wow.

CAMEROTA: He doesn't speak in public.


CAMEROTA: But he wants the public to know what was going on behind the scenes.

BERMAN: You know -- MELAS: I mean people broke NDAs to speak to us non-disclosure agreements.

BERMAN: She's really persuasive.


BERMAN: She's really persuasive.

CAMEROTA: You could see what he's broken.

MELAS: I know, she would not stop texting me so.

BERMAN: Look, the fans and the Britney supporters who, you know, the free Britney people like such giant role.

MELAS: I went to their house in this special, you're going to see, I go to the home of some of the leaders of the free Britney movement. And, you know, Jamie Spears who has called it a joke or conspiracy theorists. You got to say these people are like unofficial investigative reporters who have, you know, laid out some explosive details. And they are very much so responsible for Britney's potential freedom.

I mean, look, this is why this is so important and why this is coming out on Sunday. We're just days away from the most important day in Britney's entire life essentially. She could be freed on Wednesday. I will be in the courtroom. But this is all culminating to this moment. And that's why you're seeing so many different networks in places put out specials. They're all coming out this weekend.

CAMEROTA: But it is. Thanks to that grassroots effort. They first seemed like a lark or it seemed kind of crazy that everybody was devoting their time to free Britney. But they did this. They are the ones that got this moving after 13 years.

BERMAN: We've got about 30 seconds left. Not that you'll take a wrap.


BERMAN: But what's a happy ending for Britney here?

CAMEROTA: She wants her freedom. She wants to marry her fiance. She just got engaged. She wants more children.

MELAS: Maybe have another baby.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean, she's always wanted a life of domesticity, but instead she's been an international superstar.

BERMAN: This sounds terrific. I am looking forward to the watch party.


BERMAN: Thank you for the invite.

CAMEROTA: OK. It's great to see you.

BERMAN: It's very nice to see you as well for Chloe to sit in her in this.



BERMAN: The CNN special report Toxic: Britney Spears' Battle for Freedom airs Sunday night at 8 o'clock Eastern time. And CNN's coverage continues right now.