Real Name: Duncan (last name unknown at time of broadcast)
Case: Lost Father
Location: El Paso, Texas
Date: October 1958
Details: Jeannie Wagner was born in 1959 into a typical, blue-collar household. Her father was a construction worker and her mother was a secretary at a doctor's office. Jeannie was the first of three children and enjoyed a healthy, normal childhood -- at least by outward appearances. From a very early age, she felt different and separated from her family. She felt like she did not look like anyone in her family. For a while, she thought she was adopted. No one intentionally made her feel that way, but the feeling she had was always there.
Many families seem to have their share of untold tales; dark, disturbing secrets that are hidden away, buried, and hopefully forgotten. But occasionally, these unpleasant ghosts will rise once again with far-reaching consequences. In El Paso, Texas, Jeannie recently discovered her family's tragic secret, a secret which has led her on an emotional journey through her mother's painful past.
Jeannie's mother, Patricia "Patsy" Summers, was just seventeen when she married. She was shy, private, and had been raised in a strict home. She was a devoutly religious Catholic, had perfect etiquette, and was very concerned about her image to other people. Jeannie felt that there was something in Patsy that prevented her from being a "whole" person. There were times where Patsy was very happy, carefree, and fun to be with. However, there were also times where she was very sad.
Even as a child, Jeannie suspected that Patsy was tormented by some private demon. In 1973, when Jeannie was just thirteen, Patsy attempted to commit suicide by slitting her wrists. Eight years later in 1981, she entered a highway against traffic and smashed head-on into an approaching car. She died ten days later.
Shortly after Patsy's death, Jeannie called her younger sister and was dealt another startling blow. Her sister had found a diary which revealed the source of Patsy's inner pain. The man Jeannie knew as her father was not her father at all. When she read the diary, she felt as if all the things that had transpired in her and Patsy's lives finally made sense. In the diary, Patsy described the incredible predicament she had gotten into when she was seventeen.
In 1958, Patsy was living at home with her mother and younger brother. She was an obedient daughter who excelled in school and attended church regularly. Patsy's sister, Carol, recalled that their mother had very high standards. She came from a Catholic background and they had a very Catholic upbringing. They went to parochial schools and went to church every Sunday. That was very important to their mother. She set what she felt was a good example and expected her children to follow what she felt was right.
Patsy had been in an on-and-off relationship with a young man for about a year. Her mother and siblings like him a lot. They thought he was very responsible and polite. He also drove a nice car, which was considered important back then. However, the couple fought off and on throughout their relationship. One day, she went to a local park after an argument with her boyfriend. There, she met a young enlisted man stationed at nearby Fort Bliss. His name was Duncan.
Patsy was immediately smitten by this handsome soldier who seemed so gentle and understanding. Soon, they were seeing each other on a regular basis. She talked to him often and confided in him. She thought of him as a very kind person; she even stated in her diary that, of all the people that she had known, he was the kindest one she had ever met.
In August 1958, Patsy turned seventeen. Duncan threw her a surprise birthday party, inviting a small, select group of friends. By now, she was living a lie, keeping her relationship with Duncan hidden from her boyfriend and her family. She and Duncan continued their secret liaisons throughout the summer and into the fall. In October, she panicked when she discovered that she was pregnant. Her boyfriend believed that he was the father. She feared that her family would think badly of her; she felt that what she did was unforgivable. She never wanted to disappoint her mother because her mother was very important to her.
Patsy was forced to make an excruciating decision. Duncan had accepted full responsibility for the pregnancy and wanted to marry her. But she opted for pleasing her family. One day, she met with him and ended their relationship. She felt that she could not change some things that were already set in motion, primarily that she was to be married to someone that was known and accepted by her family. Given the times and her religious training, Carol understands why she made that choice. The pain of Patsy's dilemma was exposed in a diary entry: "I had to do it. I had to please my mother. That was the most important thing in the world. There was no other way."
On November 11, 1958, Patsy and her boyfriend were married. Only the two of them knew that she was pregnant. Only she knew who the real father was. Carol said that no one suspected a pregnancy at the time. When Patsy went into labor, she told Carol, "Tell Mother I'm sorry". She then realized that Patsy had been pregnant before she was married. However, she did not realize at the time that it went any further than that.
Jeannie was born seven months after the wedding. In her diary, Patsy described how she prayed for a child with blue eyes like those of her new husband. She received her wish. Jeannie believes that secrets only cause more harm and suffering. That is why she feels that the truth has to come out and that she has to know who Duncan is.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the April 24, 1991 episode.
Results: Solved. On the night of the broadcast, Suzanne Gilmore of Lake Wylie, South Carolina, was watching. At the time, her fifty-four-year-old husband, Duncan, was fast asleep. When Patsy's diary entry described Duncan as the "sweetest, kindest person she had ever met", Suzanne knew that she was talking about her husband. She woke Duncan up and asked him if he had been stationed in El Paso at Fort Bliss in 1958 when he was in the army, and if he had known Patsy Summers. When he confirmed this, she asked, "Did you sleep with her?" which led him to wake up, confused. She said it was very important, and he said that he had slept with her. She then said, "Congratulations, you have a daughter, and she's looking for you."
Duncan was very excited to hear that Jeannie had been looking for him. When Patsy had initially told him that she was pregnant and was going to marry another man, he assumed that the child was not his. However, when he heard everything from Suzanne, he was certain that Jeannie was his daughter and that they had to see each other. Within a few hours, Jeannie talked to Duncan and Suzanne on the phone. Duncan remembered that Patsy had worked at a dance studio, a "key detail" that had not been revealed on the broadcast. At that point, Jeannie knew that he was her father. She soon learned from Duncan that she had a half-brother and two half-sisters.
Nine days and dozens of phone calls later, on May 3, 1991, Duncan and Suzanne arrived at Jeannie's home in Houston, Texas. That day, father and daughter met for the first time in their lives. Jeannie was very happy to meet him, but was also sad that they had missed out on so much of each other's lives. Duncan said that seeing her at the door for the first time and holding her would be something he would always remember. The day was made even more special when he met his only grandchildren, Joshua and Justin, for the first time. Jeannie also met her three half-siblings for the first time.
Sadly, Duncan passed away on October 6, 1998, at the age of sixty-two. However, Suzanne and Jeannie remain in touch.
- Prayers have been answered (Page 1) (Page 2) - April 26, 1991
- Woman finds father thanks to TV show - April 26, 1991
- TV Show Reunites Family - April 27, 1991
- TV program helps woman find father - April 27, 1991
- TV show reunites father, daughter - April 29, 1991
- Mysteries Solved - April 30, 1991
- "Unsolved Mysteries" reunion on TV tonight - October 9, 1991
- Wedding Announcement for Jeannie's son Joshua - May 1, 2002
- Duncan Gilmore on Find a Grave