JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It's been 11 years of wondering, searching and struggling for a man who calls himself Benjamin Kyle. For the last 11 years, BK didn't know his real identity. But now, the man who calls Jacksonville home knows his true identity.
Back in August 2004, someone found BK beaten, sunburned and left for dead near a dumpster outside a Savannah area Burger King restaurant. When he woke up in the hospital, he had no memory of his identify. Doctors diagnosed him with retrograde amnesia.
"Sometimes, the last ten years has been just hell," said BK. "I think initially I was just stunned, literally stunned. I was not functioning. I couldn't even talk about it."
Over the past 11 years, BK has been searching for answers.
"I never really talked about the bad times. And there were some bad times," BK said, as his emotions got the best of him. "I never talked to people about it because I never thought I had the right to impose my problems on them. I don't know. Ten years ago, if I had known I'd have to go through the past ten years, I'd have just made up a Social Security number in the hospital."
BK asked for help. He appeared on Channel 4 locally and also national television shows like "The Jeff Probst Show" looking for clues, without success.
Then a breakthrough - that let him know, for sure, who his family is, and where he comes from.
"Evidently, I left Indiana in '76 and they have not seen me since then," BK said. "Of course we haven't been in communication. They thought I was dead."
Alive, but lost in his amnesia, until he got help from genetic genealogist CeCe Moore.
"The methodology we used to solve the Benjamin Kyle case was actually developed for adoption searches. For people who wanted to ID their birth families. It's applicable to lost identity as well," Moore explained.
Moore and a team worked on BK's case for two and a half years, comparing his DNA to those in databases across the country. Along with information BK thought he remembered, Moore's team made the connection - when law enforcement couldn't.
"In fact, it really amazes me that law enforcement didn't solve this sooner," Moore said. "We had his birth date. We had his home state. We had his family's religion. How could this not have been solved? It took all this time, and thanks to genetic genealogy and DNA detective work, he finally has what should have been his for years.
BK hasn't reunited with his family members yet, so he's not releasing his true identity to protect their privacy. But, he's excited to thank those who helped him get his real name back and share his relief of knowing who he really is.
"Looking at all these names, all these people, kind of gives me a sense of belonging," he said. "I have a history. I'm not just some stranger that materialized out of thin air."
without a verifiable identity, without his Social Security number, businesses wouldn't employ him and shelters wouldn't house him. Four years ago, News4Jax helped BK connect with a state representative to get Benjamin Kyle a Florida Legacy ID.
News4Jax brought the issue to U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, who sympathized but couldn't change the laws surrounding legal identification.
"This is the catch 22 he's in, and there's obviously got to be a solution," Senator Nelson told News4Jax in 2011. "You can't leave this fella without an identity."
Then, when Josh Shrutt saw our story air four years ago, he gave BK a job and a place to live. Many others also stepped up and helped however they could.
"I don't know that there's any way I'll be able to repay them," said BK. "I would like to!"
BK doesn't know what's next for him, but he certainly has more options now that he knows his true identity.
"Some of this is up in the air a bit. I'm thinking now I'll stay in Jacksonville. I know so many people. My support system is here," he said.
BK adds, while he hasn't seen his surviving brothers in person yet, he looks forward to doing that soon.