Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Real Name: James "Jim" Burke
Case: Lost Father
Location: California
Date: 1958


Details: William "Bill" O'Neil spent much of his life looking for his birth father, Jim Burke. Ever since he was a child, he felt lonely in his own family. He was the youngest son of his six children. He was told that his father, Hugh "Paul" O'Neil, had died shortly before his birth.
Years passed and the children grew up and started their own families. In 1983, Bill's older brother Tim went to their father Paul's grave in Chicago. He noticed that the date of death was December 20, 1958, which would have made it impossible for Bill to be one of his children. Bill had been born two years after his "father's" death. Tim visited their mother, who told him that she did not want anyone to know the truth.
Tim decided not to tell the truth to Bill until 1986. Bill, however, already had a feeling that he had a different father than everyone else. He called his mother Lynn and she finally told him the truth. She told him how she had met Paul in 1953 and were married the next year. Over the next four years, they had three children. Paul was a WWII veteran and suffered from a chronic kidney ailment.
In November of 1958, Lynn was seven months pregnant with their fourth child when she and the three other children visited Paul at the Veteran's hospital. During one visit, she met Jim Burke, a friend of Paul's. Sadly, Paul passed away a month later. Soon after, Jim and Lynn began dating. During the summer of 1959, Jim moved to California and the O'Neils moved with him.
A year later, in September of 1960, Bill was born. The next year, Lynn became pregnant again. However, her relationship with Jim began to deteriorate. By the time her youngest daughter, Peggy, was born, Jim was completely out of the picture. Lynn struggled to support the six children by herself. Due to Peggy's medical problems, Lynn decided to give her up for adoption. She told her children that she was sending Peggy to the hospital. She later claimed that Peggy had passed away.
In 1990, Lynn told her children that Peggy had not died. Peggy had actually contacted Lynn and said she wanted to meet her family. Peggy had been adopted by the Coleman family of Sylwin, California. She had been renamed Karen. Bill got her adopted parent's phone number, planning to talk to them about her. He was surprised when she answered the phone.
Peggy has since been reunited with Bill and the rest of her siblings. Now, the two are searching for their biological father, Jim Burke.
Extra Notes: This segment first aired during Episode 21 of the Fifth Season (February 10, 1993?). The update aired on November 3, 1993.

(from left to right) Sheila, Bill, Eileen, and Karen

Results: Solved. On the night of the broadcast, Eileen Esler of New Lenox, Illinois, called the telecenter and said that she was one of Jim Burke's four children from another marriage. Bill and Karen were saddened to learn that Jim had passed away in 1988. However, they were overjoyed to learn that they had four half-siblings that wanted to meet them.
One week later, Bill and Karen were reunited with Eileen and another half-sister, Sheila Anne Haskins, at Karen's home. Since their reunion, Bill and Karen have also met their other two half-siblings. At a family wedding, they met several other long-lost relatives.
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