The victim of Philadelphia's oldest unsolved homicide has finally been identified.
On Feb. 25, 1957, the body of a 4-year-old boy was found stuffed inside a cardboard box left in the Fox Chase neighborhood; the malnourished child had been beaten to death. His identity was unknown, and he was referred to as the "Boy in the Box." On Thursday, Philadelphia police announced that they now have a name for the child: Joseph Augustus Zarelli.
"When people think about the Boy in the Box, a profound sadness is felt, not just because a child was murdered, but because his entire identity and his rightful claim to own his existence was taken away," Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said during a news conference. The case, she added, "haunted this community, the Philadelphia Police Department, our nation, and the world."
Police were able to determine his identity through renewed DNA testing and genetic genealogy, and officials said while Zarelli's parents are deceased, he does have siblings who are still living. Capt. Jason Smith, commanding officer of the homicide unit, said it's "going to be an uphill battle for us to definitively determine who caused this child's death. We may not make an arrest. We may never make an identification. But we're going to do our darnedest to try."
After Zarelli's body was found, police plastered Philadelphia with posters and flyers seeking information on his identity and death, and while hundreds of tips were pursued, officers were able to rule out all suspects.