All 27-year-old Chip St. Clair knows for sure about his childhood is that it was filled with secrets.
Until the age of 5 he had a different name, and his family moved dozens of times in the middle of the night. St. Clair also recalls the uncontrollable rage and abuse he endured from his father, who claimed he was a decorated Green Beret soldier.
Then at age 23, Chip learned the biggest secret of all: his father, David St. Clair, was really convicted killer Michael Grant, an escapee from an Indiana prison where he was serving time for stomping a child to death in 1970.
Grant and St. Clair's mother, Leslie Weaver, had been on the run for 26 years when a family fight revealed the truth about Grant, 62. Now, St. Clair is pushing to keep his father behind bars.
Michigan’s Most Wanted
The truth about his family came out in 1998, when Chip St. Clair and his fiancée were having dinner at his parents' home in Auburn Hills, Mich. He and his father got into an argument at the table.
When Chip got up to leave, his dad became violent and started beating him up, leaving him with a dislocated shoulder. Chip and his fiancée got away and called police. His father was arrested for the assault.
When Chip St. Clair called his aunt — Grant's sister — to tell her what happened, he received some shocking news about his father's past.
"She took a breath and said, 'He's not who he says he is. He is really Michael Grant, an escaped child killer from 1973,'" St. Clair told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America.
The next day, St. Clair said he called police and told them that his father was really Grant, a man who was one of Michigan's 10 Most Wanted Fugitives. Police ran his fingerprints and realized it was true.
As Grant went back to prison, his arrest opened up a Pandora's box of secrets for his son.
In the summer of 1970, Grant was dating Vicki Ingersoll, a waitress in Mishawaka, Ind. While she worked the late shift one night, he baby-sat her sons, Scott, 3, and Thomas, 5. Grant later told police that the boys got rowdy in the bathtub, and when he jerked Scott from the tub, the boy urinated on his feet. Enraged, Grant beat and stomped Scott to death. He was convicted of manslaughter and given a 2- to 21-year sentence.
Cruelties During Childhood
St. Clair said Grant escaped from prison while on an outside work crew. The next year, St. Clair was born as Chip Carole, according to a birth certificate that St. Clair found in a box full of Grant's paperwork. He also found a birth certificate for Chip St. Clair, obviously doctored. That was the name he had used from the age of 5 on.
In retrospect, what he learned about his father's identity put a lot in perspective, St. Clair said.
During his childhood, the family constantly moved around to various locations in California and Michigan, supposedly because of his parents' job of managing apartment buildings, St. Clair said.
As an only child, St. Clair said he was subjected to a host of cruelties.
"He was a very dangerous man, very torturous," St. Clair said.
"There's one time he had thrown me out of a boat in lake Michigan when I was only about 7 years old. He made me swim as he rode back to shore ahead of me," he said. St. Clair said the swim, a distance of about 300 yards, left him exhausted and fearing he would drown.
St.Clair said Grant would often say to him, 'What would you do if you found out I was in prison? Or that we took you from a shopping center?'
"One of those scenarios were true, which leads me to wonder," St. Clair said.
St. Clair said he suspects Grant and Weaver might not be his parents. Since his father's arrest, he has been estranged from both parents.
In an interview with the Detroit Free Press earlier this month, Grant said he lived life on the lam out of love for St. Clair.
"We hid things from him. I know that's not right, but it's because we loved him so much," he told the paper. He also denied ever abusing St. Clair.
When the Indiana Parole Board nearly released Grant from prison in 1999, St. Clair told the board one of the only things he knew for sure about his father.
"I am very afraid of this man and today at 23 years old, have nightmares about him coming to kill me," he wrote in a letter to the board.
Because of those nightmares, he intends to do what he can to keep the father who raised him, the father he never really knew, in prison, St. Clair said. Each time he is up for parole, he will ask the board not to release him and to make sure he serves his full sentence through 2007.
St. Clair and his wife run a janitorial business in Oakland County. St. Clair says he and his wife talk about having children, but he says it is hard to think of the future when he is unsure about his own identity.