Nearly 66 years after the battered body of a boy was found inside a cardboard box, Philadelphia police have finally revealed his identity: Joseph Augustus Zarelli.
By releasing it to the public on Thursday, authorities hope it will bring them one step closer to the killer and give the “kid in the box,” as he is reminded, some dignity.
The city’s oldest unsolved homicide has “haunted this community, the Philadelphia Police Department, our nation and the world,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said at a news conference.
“When people think of the boy in the box, they feel a deep sadness, not only because a child was murdered, but because they took away his entire identity and his legitimate right to exist,” added the official.
Police said detective work and DNA analysis helped them learn Joseph’s identity. The homicide investigation remains open and the authorities hope that the disclosure of the name will generate leads.
Police said that Joseph’s parents are dead, but he has living relatives.
His severely beaten, naked body was found on February 25, 1957, in a wooded area of the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia. The boy, who was 4, was wrapped in a blanket and inside a large JCPenney bassinet. Police say he was malnourished. They beat him to death.
The police put up posters with his image throughout the city to try to identify him and catch his killer.
Detectives discarded hundreds of leads: that he was a Hungarian refugee, a boy who had been kidnapped outside a Long Island supermarket in 1955, and other missing children. Suspects were also ruled out.
Originally buried in a pauper’s grave, the boy’s remains now lie at the entrance to Ivy Hill Cemetery beneath a weeping cherry tree and a headstone designates him as “America’s Unknown Child.” Every year, on the anniversary of the discovery of the boy inside the box, memorial services are held.
People often leave flowers and, at this time of year, Christmas decorations and toys.
Source: El Nuevo Herald