All anyone knew about him was that he was born Robert Lee King in March 1949. To find Jennie King’s remaining son was going to be tough with so little information to go on.
Benjaman Kyle claims his birthdate is August 29, 1948 because he remembers that he was born exactly ten years before Michael Jackson. But memory is a funny thing.
Carl Litel, Jennie’s second known son, was adopted the day he was born, February 5, 1946. Jennie held him only once before he was taken away.
Carl’s adoptive parents Joseph and Cecelia Litel provided a wonderful home for Carl and his adopted brother James. The couple also had two natural children who were born several years later, a daughter Elizabeth, and a son John. Carl’s parents encouraged him in everything he tried. He studied chemical engineering at Purdue for 3 1/2 yrs, served in the Army, and worked as a substitute teacher after he was discharged. He eventually went into the restaurant industry, and is now responsible for the design and construction of most of the Indian restaurants in Indianapolis and over half in the State of Indiana. He still lives in the old family home in Indianapolis.
When Carl’s father died in 1967, he discovered his birth certificate among a pile of papers his mother was sorting through from his father’s safety deposit box. It gave his birth name as Patrick King. He replaced the certificate in the pile exactly as he had found it without saying anything to his mother. He did not want to upset her by bringing up a sensitive subject.
To find out more about his birth parents, Carl went down to the local library and looked up the birth announcements around his birth date of February 5, 1946. He found himself listed as the baby boy of Albert and Jennie King. Unfortunately, Carl discovered that there were 437 Jennie Kings in the census records who were about the same age as his mother, including at least three either living or who had died in Indianapolis. One Jennie was married to a local doctor, but she was African American. Two other Jennies were buried in Washington East Cemetery, but there was no reason for Carl to know that one of them was his mother.
Years passed. In 1995 when his mother died, Carl tried again to find Jennie. He had recently experienced heart problems, so it became important to him to know his medical history. But he immediately ran into a dead end. Catholic Charities told him that in order for them to release his adoption records, he had to supply the death certificates of both his adoptive and his natural parents. Since he had not been able to identify Jennie King, and did not know the name of his natural father, he was out of luck.
Carl once had a chance to learn his father’s name. The first time he visited Catholic Charities in 1995, the social worker he met with had a thick folder on her desk that contained all of his Catholic Charity adoption papers. She excused herself and stepped out the room to take a call, leaving Carl with the folder in plain view. He was tempted to peak inside it or to stuff it into his bag, but thought better of it. He now realizes that the social worker probably stepped away to give him a chance to have a look at the contents of the folder without breaking the rules of confidentiality. In a few minutes, his chance was gone. The social worker returned. Carl left the meeting knowing nothing more about his biological parents.
Time went by. Every now and then, Carl would check in with the Catholic Charities to see if there was any chance he could get his adoption records. Perhaps their policy had changed. He also tried to get the court records pertaining to his adoption from the State Government. But no luck.
Then one day, Carl got a call from Katrina at Catholic Charities, informing him that she had received a request from someone named Michael who was searching for a missing brother. Katrina had noticed that Michael’s birth mother was named Jennie King. Katrina put two and two together and realized that Carl and Michael probably had the same mother and that Carl might be Michael’s missing brother. This was news to Carl, who had never known that Jennie had had any other children.
Shortly afterwards, Carl was surprised to receive a package in the mail from the State of Indiana containing his legal adoption papers. Katrina had arranged to have them released. The package contained Jennie Lower’s death certificate, signed by her older brother Jim King with his address in Indianapolis.
Carl looked in the phone book, and was stunned to find that Jim King still lived in the same house he had lived in when Jennie died in 1967. Carl also started calling all the Lowers in the city directory. Each one immediately replied, “No, that’s not my family”, until he called Norman Lower who paused for quite a while before he identified Jennie as his mother.
There was confusion at first. Norman explained that he was born in 1953. In 1963 when he was ten, Jennie had introduced him to his older brother Michael Davis, whom she explained she had given birth to in 1938 shortly after she graduated from high school. The next surprise was Jennie’s announcement that she had had still another son Robert Lee King in 1949, whom she had given up for adoption when he was three and a half years old. Norman further explained that Mary Davis, Michael wife, had been searching for Bobbie Lee for years but could never locate him, as they did not know his adopted name.
Norman believed at first that Carl was the missing Bobbie Lee, but was surprised to find that Carl’s birth name was Patrick King. Carl was a fourth son that Jennie had not told anyone about. Bobbie Lee was therefore still missing.
Just in case you are confused, here is a timeline of Jennie’s life that might straighten things out for you…
December 20, 1918 Jennie Lee King (Barnett Rudio) born in Louisville, KY
March 23, 1938 Michael Steven Davis (Michael James King) born in Indianapolis
March 18, 1943 Lillian King, Jennie’s mother dies. Her life becomes unstable.
1943 -1952 Michael stays with his mother and in foster homes
February 5, 1946 Carl Litel (Patrick King) born in Indianapolis, adopted at birth
March 1949 Robert Lee King born in Indianapolis
1952 Robert Lee King adopted by unknown parents
October 15, 1953 Norman Lower born in Indianapolis
December 29, 1964 Jennie King marries William Lower, Norman’s father
July 10, 1967 Jennie King Lower dies from injuries received in a car accident
Things happened fast after Carl spoke to Norman. The two brothers, along with Norman’s wife Denise arranged to meet at Jennie’s grave in the Washington East Cemetery on Memorial Day 2008. Carl realized that he had actually located his mother years before, but had no reason to know it was her.
In the meantime, Katrina had obtained Michael’s permission to release a few of the papers in his file to Carl. Evidently, the few documents that still existed about Carl had been mixed with Michael’s. The big folder that Carl had left on the social worker’s desk years before had been lost – perhaps destroyed by a tornado that swept through the county in the late 1990s.
In August 2008, Michael and Mary Davis traveled from their home in Alabama to meet Carl and Norman in Indianapolis. The three brothers found they had a lot in common – including the still-missing brother Bobbie Lee.
In October 2008, when Mary Davis saw Benjaman Kyle on the Dr. Phil television program, she contacted the show explaining that she believed that Benjaman could be her husband’s missing brother. Benjaman told Dr. Phil that he was born in Indianapolis in 1948, was raised Catholic, and had three brothers. He also worked in the restaurant industry. It seems like a good fit, but Mary did not receive a reply from the show to her request for a DNA test to see if Benjaman was related to her husband and his two known brothers.
In October 2009, a friend forwarded Mary the articles about me in the Orange County Register. I had agreed to the interviews on the condition that the Register feature Benjaman in at least one of them. Benjaman was included in two of the articles, “Is she the world’s greatest DNA detective?” on October 5, 2009, and “Can she find a name for a naked, beaten amnesiac?” on October 8, 2009. Mary recognized him immediately as the man she had seen on Dr. Phil, and contacted Tom Berg, the author of the series.
He forwarded her email to me. Coincidentally, we were on the east coast visiting with Benjaman and his advocate Katherine. I answered Mary right away, realizing this was the best lead I had had for identifying Benjaman. I hoped he was the missing Bobbie Lee King.
I notified the Center for Human Identification at the University of North Texas in Denton, TX about the King brothers, and started the process of placing an official request that they be DNA tested. But this would take time. Meanwhile, my job was to find out what had happened to Bobbie Lee. But after talking to both Mike and Mary Davis and Carl, I realized that I had nothing to go on to search for him. His last name could be anything.
A few weeks later, Carl was rereading his papers from Catholic Charities when he saw a note written in the margin that he had not noticed before. The note consisted of three words that had been crossed out, a first and last name Angelo Bruno*, with the name “Lee” written right below. Carl guessed that was probably the name of Bobbie’s adopted father that had been mistakenly written on Carl’s papers, then crossed out when the error was realized.
I immediately found that there was an Angelo Bruno who had been a soldier stationed at Fort Benjaman Harrison to the east of Indianapolis. He would have been in the area about the time Bobbie Lee was adopted. He was also about the right age to be his father.
Searching on genealogical websites, I discovered that there is quite a large Bruno family in Upstate New York, including several Angelos. I called a few of them, but none of them had an adopted son.
In desperation, I went on Facebook, where I found a Bruno group page. I wrote to the owner who I was later told lived in South America. She must have sent out an All Points Bulletin, because about a half hour later, I received a call from a Steve Bruno in Houston who told me he thought he knew the family I was searching for. Steve told me that ten years earlier, as he was filling out his family genealogy, he had interviewed two unrelated Bruno families from Ohio, including one for Angelo. He told me that Angelo and his wife were deceased, but that his son John* and his daughter Margaret* were still alive. Steve had interviewed Margaret, but she had not mentioned that her brother had been adopted. It was likely that these Brunos were the family I was searching for, but it was not known whether their son John was missing.
Within a day, Steve contacted Margaret and was informed that her brother John had indeed been adopted, but was alive and well and living in New Jersey, was married with two children, and working in the insurance industry. She had recently spoken with him and he was fine. John was without doubt the missing Bobbie Lee King.
This was a major disappointment for everyone. We had been looking forward to solving several enduring mysteries all at one time. Had things worked out otherwise, Mike, Carl, and Norman would have found their missing brother, and Benjaman would have found his mother and his identity.
We had already begun to organize DNA testing to see if Benjaman matched the brothers. Since they all had the same mother their mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) would be identical. If Benjaman’s Y-DNA matched the Y-DNA of any of them, he would have at least found a full brother, and had a clue to who his father was.
In December 2010, it occurred to me that it was perhaps premature to put this close call in the inactive file. We had confirmed that Benjaman was not Bobbie Lee King, Jennie’s third son who had been missing for the last sixty years. But what about still another child she had not said anything about?
I took a closer look at Jennie’s life. Between 1946 after Mike started to go to foster homes and Carl had been adopted by the Litels, and 1949 when John (Bobbie Lee) was born, we do not know much about Jennie. Her life was unstable, she moved around a lot. No one kept good tabs on her. Catholic Charities does not seem to have a record of any other children for Jennie, but there were several other adoption and child welfare agencies in Indianapolis that Jennie could have gone to if she were pregnant.
The thread of circumstance that had brought Jennie’s four sons together was very fragile. Had Carl’s mother not left those papers out on the table in 1967, and had Katrina at the Catholic Charities not noticed Jennie King’s name turn up in simultaneous requests from both Michael and Carl 41 years later, Carl, Michael and Norman would probably never have been reunited. And had Angelo Bruno’s name not been mistakenly written in the margin of Carl’s adoption papers in 1952, John would have probably never had been identified. Perhaps there are other parts to the story that are still to be discovered.
Jennie had kept Carl a secret from his brothers. Whose to say she didn’t have other secrets? Maybe Benjaman will turn out to be a fifth missing brother. Maybe he was given up at a very young age to an orphanage, but never adopted, so that’s why he cannot remember his parents and only vaguely recalls he had three brothers. Maybe he had a fourth brother named Norman who was born later.
I’ve restarted the procedure to file an official request with the Center for Human Identification to DNA test Michael and Carl. I’ve also begun contacting various social service organizations in the Indianapolis area to ask them to search their records. Carl has had long conversations about Indianapolis with Benjaman that have indicated Benjaman lived there at least between 1954-1963. Although Benjaman believes he was raised a Catholic, he recalls almost nothing about the Catholic schools in Indianapolis during that era.
While the Indianapolis Catholic Archdiocese has not yielded useful information, I’ve found that the Indianapolis public school (IPS) records are organized by child’s name, and that each record contains his birth date, parents’ names, addresses, schools attended, and sometimes more. I plan to ask the IPS system to search for someone of Benjaman’s description.
But then again, who knows if his real name is Benjaman as he thinks? Or if his birthdate is August 29, 1948? And if he was adopted his last name would probably not be either Powell or Davidson or even King.
Benjaman’s has only two hopes of being identified. One is to find a DNA match, but we don’t know when one will come along. The other is locating someone who can identify him. So if you recognize him, please contact me immediately at firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope that the next close call will be our last.
Part I, Part II, Part III, Conclusion
For more information:
Wikipedia article: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjaman_Kyle
John Doe Network: www.doenetwork.org/cases/1007umga.html
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/BenjamanKyle?v=wall
23andMe Discussion: identifinders.wordpress.com/2010/12/09/…
Benjaman’s Powell & Davidson Matches: identifinders.wordpress.com/2010…