Benjaman Kyle Asks: Who Am I?
Amnesia has locked Benjaman Kyle in a place of darkness and uncertainty, but new DNA evidence linking him to several Transylvania families is now bringing light to his darkness and new hope for finding his identity. (Courtesy photo by Robin Nelson/ZUMA)
By Michael Allison for
The Transylvania Times
Imagine that one day you get up, check the news and weather, scan your e-mail, take the dog out and leave for work. As you go out the door, you say a quick goodbye to your loved ones.
Imagine that you simply disappear that day and are found unconscious sometime later. You've been assaulted, your clothes, wallet and all forms of identification are gone. You have no knowledge of your name, your home and of your family or loved ones.
Imagine not being able to find your way home again or to know if you even had a home and wondering why no one has come looking for you, or perhaps if you've been given up for dead.
For one man, America's most well-known amnesia victim, this is no imaginary scenario. It has been his reality for almost seven years. For the first time in those seven years, there is now hope for discovering his identity, thanks to DNA evidence linking him to several Transylvania County families.
On Aug 31, 2004 at 6 a.m ., the managers of a Burger King Restaurant in Richmond Hill, Ga ., a suburb of Savannah, found an unconscious man lying on the ground inside a wall enclosing the restaurant's dumpsters. He had no clothing and no wallet providing identification.
Paramedics summoned to the scene reported the man was badly sunburned and had been beaten, perhaps with a blunt object that had left three depressions in his head. His body was covered with fire ant bites.
The authorities soon realized the man had no knowledge of his name and identity and that he was blind from cataracts. He could see only shapes.
Since he was found behind a Burger King, the initials "BK" were adopted. From that nickname the pseudonym "Benjaman Kyle" was born, the name by which he calls himself today. For some reason, that particular name under that spelling felt very familiar to Benjaman, so he immediately felt comfortable with the name.
Kyle spent time in a series of hospitals, both medical and psychiatric, including seven months in a medical care facility for the indigent. He also spent time in a homeless shelter, a traumatic experience for a blind man suffering from amnesia.
In 2005, a charitable organization arranged for cataract surgery to restore his sight. For more than a week after the surgery, Kyle's vision was blurred, but one day while shaving, his sight returned. For the first time ever, "Benjaman Kyle" saw his own face. He was shocked to see a face which, due to the amnesia, he had never seen before.
"I saw an old man in his 60s with gray hair and an aging face," said Kyle. "Not only did I not know my own name, that day I saw the face of a man I didn't know."
Months turned into years, but the door to Kyle's memory of his past remained shut. All the while, various law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, made efforts to establish his identity, to no avail.
News stories about Kyle and his plight circulated the country and caught the attention of producers from "The Doctor Phil Show." Doctor Phil McGraw featured Kyle on his nationally syndicated show and had him appear as a guest.
The National Enquirer made a sincere effort to help through a feature story. National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" featured Kyle and asked the public for help.
Numerous television stations around the county aired segments featuring Kyle, as did newspapers across the country.
The story rose to international interest in Australia and the United Kingdom. Kyle's story was presented in The Guardian, Britain's widely published daily paper.
In spite of the extensive publicity, no one was found with knowledge of this man.
Since Kyle has no birth certificate or social security number, he cannot get a driver's license nor can he work.
He can't open a bank account and boarding a plane is out of the question. To survive, he is forced to depend on his small but dedicated social network that includes his dedicated legal advocate and friend with whom he lives in a safe and loving environment.
Estimations are that Kyle is possibly in his early to mid 60s. If the age estimations are valid, he may have been born at some point in the 1940s.
Kyle has had certain memories return to him, at least what appear as valid recollections, although amnesia can trigger false memories. He has vague memories of being in the Indianapolis, Ind. area, perhaps when younger. He has more vivid recollections of the Boulder, Colo. area, including specific geographic features and structures.
Fortunately, news of his plight reached a master researcher and renowned mystery solver, California resident Colleen Fitzpatrick, who immediately adopted Kyle's cause and put her vast skills to work.
Fitzpatrick is a nationally known forensic genealogist for civilian and major military organizations, including the United States Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory in Rockville, Md.
A former resident of North Carolina, Fitzpatrick earned her doctorate in nuclear physics from Duke University and has gone on to develop expertise in the use of DNA in her research, which has been successfully applied to solving a string of well known national and international mysteries, often many years after the fact.
Fitzpatrick worked on a team attempting to solve the Amelia Earhart mystery.
She personally found a living relative of Fred Noonan, Amelia Earhart's navigator, who vanished with her in the Pacific Ocean in 1937. Through DNA from the living relative, she was able to establish a DNA link of remains found on Gardner Island in the Pacific to Noonan, a critically important piece of evidence in the ongoing efforts to prove once and for all if Earhart crashed on or near Gardner Island.
Fitzpatrick has worked long and hard to give the man known as Benjaman Kyle the identity and the life he deserves. Her masterful skills in the use of DNA have begun to pay off, providing the first ever glimpses of Kyle's family.
Armed with DNA evidence linking to a host of old Transylvania County families, including several early families from Pickens County, S.C ., Fitzpatrick's research took her to the Transylvania Genealogy Group on Jan. 28 of this year.
She immediately established a close working relationship with members of the genealogy group who are descendants of the families with established DNA ties to Kyle.
Through her DNA work, Fitzpatrick has assembled a host of local surnames that are biologically linked to Kyle.
The two leading and strongest links are found in the Powell and Galloway families.
Other families which have emerged from the DNA study include Whitmire, Aiken, Boren, Bowen, Reese, Paxton, Parker, Chastain, Denton, Adams, Hines, Hooper, Perry and Chandler.
"I can't help but believe that somewhere in Transylvania County there is someone with knowledge of this man, even if vague and sketchy," said Fitzpatrick. "From what I've learned of Transylvania, there is probably no better place on earth to ask for help from such good people who have a reputation for helping one another, especially anyone who is family."
Benjaman Kyle needs the public's help. He needs a name and an identity. He desperately needs to have a sense of normalcy in his life.
"I can only try to imagine what it might feel like to have a family as I have no memory of ever having a family or being a part of a family," said Kyle. "As far as my memory is concerned, I have no idea what it feels like to have a name and a sense of belonging to something bigger than myself or to someone other than myself.
"I need your help if I'm to have a name and a family and that sense of belonging."
Contact Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick if you have any information or possible leads, no matter how vague or sketchy, which might lead to establishing an identity for the man called Benjaman Kyle. Call (714) 296-3065 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. If the caller wishes, all contacts and information shared will be held in the strictest of confidence and the information used only for further research to prove the identity of Benjaman Kyle.