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Police finally reveal identity of 'America's Unknown Child' after 66 years

Emily Brown

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| Last updated 

Police finally reveal identity of 'America's Unknown Child' after 66 years

Featured Image Credit: Philadelphia Police

Police in Philadelphia have revealed the identity of 'America's unknown child' after the young boy was found dead more than 60 years ago.

Dubbed the 'boy in the box', the child was found naked, 'severely beaten' and stuffed inside a cardboard box in a wooded area of northeast Philadelphia on 25 February, 1957.

He had brown hair, blue eyes, was believed to be between four and six years old and appeared to be malnourished, but he couldn't be identified at the time.

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Police posted his photograph all over the city and followed up various leads, including suggestions that he was one of a variety of missing children, but they all went cold.

As the investigation continued, an Ohio woman came forward to claim her mother had bought the boy from his birth parents before keeping him in the basement of their Philadelphia home.

Authorities found her credible, but couldn’t corroborate her story, and ultimately the case became Philadelphia's oldest unsolved homicide.

Now, however, police work and DNA analysis have allowed authorities to identify the child.

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Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw was joined by officials including Philadelphia County Medical Examiner Dr. Constance DiAngelo and Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick of Identifinders International to announce the boy's identity in a news conference today (8 December).

The press conference explained how interpretation of the DNA results allowed detectives to locate possible relatives on the maternal side, and the identity of the birth mother of the child.

Birth records from the relevant period then revealed three results, one of which was a male child consistent with the age of the boy in the box.

Authorities named the child as Joseph Augustus Zarelli. Credit: @MaggieKent6abc/Twitter
Authorities named the child as Joseph Augustus Zarelli. Credit: @MaggieKent6abc/Twitter
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The certificate listed a birth father, and detectives were then able to make contact with possible relatives on the paternal side.

Based on the facts found, authorities named the child as Joseph Augustus Zarelli. His date of birth was 13 January 1953.

The granddaughter of Bill Kelly, who took the boy's fingerprints on the day he was found, has said her grandfather would be happy with the developments after being first on the scene on the 'fateful day' the boy was discovered.

Speaking to ABC, Jessica Greene said: "He never forgot about that image. I mean how could you? ... He was the fingerprint expert on scene.

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"Those fingerprints were ingrained in his mind his whole life, and when he closed his eyes in his mind that's what he saw."

Prior to his identification, the young boy had been buried in a Philadelphia grave which read 'heavenly father bless this unknown boy'.

His body was exhumed twice in order to gather samples for testing, and has since been reinterred.

Topics: News, Crime, US News

Emily Brown
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