Boy in the Box

Boy in the Box

Bradley Akin, Journalist

Homicides occur every day, actually, about 50 murders are committed a day but some go unsolved. Just in the United States alone, more than 200,000 homicides have gone unsolved and that number is rising by about 6,000 per year. Along with that, 50 percent of murders go unsolved which means half of these killers could be walking among us today. Although all of this might be true after 65 years investigators have gotten closure on an unsolved case in Pennsylvania.

One of the oldest mysteries in the U.S., the Boy in the Box has haunted investigators since February 25, 1957. A 3-7-year-old boy was found extensively beaten on the side of Susquehanna Road, in Philadelphia Pennsylvania in 1957. Known as America’s “Unknown Child” the boy was found in a box and the cause of death was homicide by blunt force trauma. A college student was investigating the woods when he discovered the body of a highly malnourished child and then reported it the following day after hearing about the disappearance of Mary Jane Barker. Police came to the crime scene where they took fingerprints, then printed flyers depicting the boy’s likeness and posted them across the area. Also at the location, it seemed the boy had been placed in a bassinet covered in a blanket. At first, they were hopeful, having investigators, and 270 police academy recruits looking over the case little did they know it would take 65 years on November 30, 2022, before any identity would be revealed. 

Though it has taken many years to identify him there have been many theories as to what happened to this young boy. Due to investigation, his body was not buried until 1998 which has left time for people to assume many explanations for this mystery. Most common and plausible is the theory about the foster home located 1.5 miles from the crime site. An employee working for the medical examiner’s office pursued this case until he died in 1993. His leads led him to an estate sale at the foster home, which he attended not only to find a bassinet similar to the one sold at J.C. Penny but as well as blankets that were extremely familiar to the one found at the crime scene. After the discovery of who owned the foster home, it was later declared that he was likely not involved. As of November 30th, most of these theories about the child were all wrong. 

  After 65 years, 9 months, and 5 days the Philadelphia police department officially uncovered the identity of “America’s Unknown Child.” They have exhumed the body twice since burial to collect new DNA, last time was in 2019 instead this time it finally paid off. New advancements in forensic technology lead them to find 3 birth certificates. Two for his siblings, one for Joseph Augustus Zarelli, born on January 13, 1953, who was only 4 years old when he was murdered in February of 1957. His parents have been identified, and though they are deceased the investigation continues in search for his killer. This case has been open for 65 years, but the question still stands will they ever solve the mystery of the Boy in the Box?