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65 years later, the police put a name to a little boy found dead in a box

Joseph Augustus Zarelli was found dead in a cardboard box in 1957 in Philadelphia – HANDOUT / PHILADELPHIA POLICE DEPARTMENT / AFP

More than 65 years later, US police announced Thursday that, thanks to new DNA and genealogy, they had identified a little boy who had been found dead in a cardboard box in Philadelphia in the late 1950s and whose killer was never found.

On February 25, 1957, the boy’s lifeless body was discovered, bearing the marks of several blows, wrapped in a blanket inside a cardboard box, in a wooded area of ​​the city in the northeastern United States.

In addition to the beatings, “the boy appeared to be malnourished (…) it was clear that in his very short life this child had experienced horrors that no one, no one should ever experience,” said Under Philadelphia Police Chief Danielle. Outlaw at a press conference.

An autopsy had concluded that the victim was between four and six years old, but no one had ever come forward to claim his body, and the “little boy in the box” investigation had never identified him, despite earlier DNA tests.

In 2019, police again exhumed his remains, buried next to a headstone marked “America’s Unknown Child,” after new forensic techniques were developed, police Capt. Jason Smith said.

A long study

The test results were uploaded to DNA databases and then analyzed by genealogists, tracing the child’s biological mother. Investigators then found a birth certificate for one of his children born in 1953. New analysis then made it possible to identify the father and birthday of the child, identified as Joseph Augustus Zarelli and born on January 13, 1953.

Police did not identify the parents, but said the child had “a number of siblings” still alive.

“This is still an active homicide investigation and we still need the public’s help to complete this child’s life story,” said Danielle Outlaw.

By the end of October, another mystery had been solved in the northeastern United States. Federal police and the judiciary had announced that they had identified a woman who had been found dead, her hands cut, on a beach on the US East Coast in 1974, and whose killer was also never found. Tennessee native Ruth Marie Terry was 37 at the time of her death.

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