'America’s Unknown Child': Philadelphia police to identify the 'Boy in the Box' after 65 years

'America’s Unknown Child': Philadelphia police to identify the 'Boy in the Box' after 65 years

On February 25, 1957, the dead body of a boy believed to be between the age of three and six was found in a cardboard box in Philadelphia’s Fox Chase area. Philadelphia police investigated the child’s death extensively but were unable to determine his identity — until now. After 65 years, the Philadelphia Police Department has made a major breakthrough in the case and plans to announce the child’s identity.

The body of the child, who was dubbed “The Boy in the Box” in media reports, was found naked and had been badly beaten, according to the Philadelphia Police Department. The child’s grave is at the Ivy Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, with a headstone describing him as “America’s Unknown Child.” However, a name may be added after his identity is officially announced.

At the location where the child’s body was discovered, a plaque reads, “February 26, 1957, Police Officers Elmer Palmer and Samuel Weinstein responded to the then-rural Susquehanna Road to investigate a report of a body found in a box. There, they discovered the naked, battered body of a small boy believed to be 4-6 years old. This unknown child became known as the ‘Boy in the Box.’ He has never been identified. His case remains open. He is now called 'America's Unknown Child.’”

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The description of Philadelphia’s Susquehanna Road as “then-rural” is important. Fox Chase is in Northeast Philly, which underwent considerable development after World War 2. Although Philadelphia on the whole was densely populated in the 1940s and 1950s, much of the growth and development in Northeast Philly occurred after the War. And if a crime was committed in the area around that part of Susquehanna Road in the past, there wouldn’t have been as great a possibility of witnesses.

Newsweek’s Gerrard Kaonga reports, “The child's body has been exhumed twice, and each time, DNA has been extracted. The most recent DNA sample has allowed authorities to identify the mystery child.”

Linda Tamburri, the secretary and treasurer at Ivy Hill Cemetery, is delighted that there has finally been a major breakthrough in the case.

Tamburri told CBS News, “To have a name on that stone, that's what everybody has been wishing forever. I'm just glad I'm here to actually know I'll see that little boy's name on the stone…. I think it's wonderful. I just wish that the police officers and all the people involved who long passed away were still here to see it because that was one of their goals. And a couple of them said, 'I hope they live long enough to see a name put on there.’”

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