Police announced Thursday they have identified the remains of a boy who was found beaten to death just outside of Philadelphia 65 years ago.
Philadelphia police identified the victim generations of Philadelphians have known as simply the “boy in the box,” as Joseph Augustus Zarelli, as reported by NBC News. Found in Philadelphia’s Fox Chase neighborhood in 1957, the 4- 6 year old child’s malnourished and abused body was discovered inside a cardboard box and wrapped in a blanket, the outet reported.
“Joseph Augustus Zarelli will no longer be that ‘Boy in the Box’ and will no longer be unknown,” Vidocq Society’s William Fleisher said at a news conference naming the boy who was found dead more than 65 years ago. https://t.co/Z1u8fMx7f1 pic.twitter.com/HjK9EKaGdL
— NBC10 Philadelphia (@NBCPhiladelphia) December 8, 2022
Because of breakthroughs in DNA technology, two exhumations of the boy’s body and a little help from the Vidocq Society, a Philadelphia crime solving club, investigations finally yielded a clue to the boy’s identity, NBC stated. A DNA analysis of the collected genetic material allowed forensic genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick to create a list of the boy’s possible relatives, which helped police locate Zarelli’s family, reported NBC News.
They even managed to obtain the child’s birth certificate, the outlet stated.
Though this incredible development, six decades in the making, has brought one of the country’s oldest cold cases one step closer to being solved, police warn it’s not going to be easy. (RELATED: ‘Lady Of The Dunes’: FBI Identifies Cape Cod Murder Victim Nearly Fifty Years Later)
“It’s going to be an uphill battle for us to definitively determine who caused this child’s death,” Philadelphia police Captain Jason Smith told NBC News.
“If this technology had been available to us 20 years ago, it might be a completely different story — because once you identify who the child is, you start (interviewing) family members. Well at this point of time, a lot of the family members who would have been old enough to have a memory of any incident that might have occurred are normally long gone,” he explained.