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Name: Unknown Killer of the Boy in the Box

Charge: Murder or Accidental Death

Wanted By: Philadelphia Police Dept (PA)

Date At Large: 02/25/57

Last Known Location: Philadelphia, PA



America's Most Wanted joins the Vidocq Society to help solve Philadelphia's most troubling mystery.

What dark motive is behind this case? Join our forum. The world-famous Vidocq Society is named in honor of Eugene Francois Vidocq, a fascinating 18th century French detective who was a confidante of writers Victor Hugo and Honore Balzac.

Headquartered in Philadelphia, the Vidocq Society has 82 members -- one member permitted for each year that Vidocq lived. Members come from 17 US states and 11 countries. They take on the toughest cases - and crack them.

Now AMW has joined forces with Vidocq to help solve a cruel and troubling mystery.

It's a case that began on February 24, 1957 -- a bitter cold Philadelphia morning. In a desolate and rural area there was an unofficial dump - a place where anyone and everyone left the detritus of their lives. Most mornings it was household garbage or rusty car parts. On this morning, it was The Boy in the Box.

One of the first detectives on the scene was Detectives Sam Weinstein. All these years later, he's still haunted by the vision of the tiny, malnourished boy. His nude body had been wrapped in an Indian blanket and placed in a cardboard box.

In an effort to find his identity, detectives tenderly dressed the tiny boy in a typical outfit and photographed him, hoping the simulation of life might help someone recognize him. The entire city of Philadelphia was touched by the boy's plight, but no one ever came forward to identify him.

The boy's death could have been accident... or murder. Only the perpetrator can know for sure. To this day, his identity and his cause of death remain a complete mystery. Here are the primary clues:

-His age can only be guessed at - he had a full set of baby teeth and may have been 3 - 6 years old.

-His heritage was most likely north western European or Scandinavian

-He had never been inoculated with any of the vaccinations most children his age received.

-He had been circumcised and had scars in the groin and ankle area that were indicative of some type of transfusion or other medical treatment.

-The boy was badly malnourished and his body was covered in bruises.

-He had marks around his head -- as though a strong adult may have pressed in his forehead.

-One of his hands looked as though it had been soaking in water. Forensic technicians call the wrinkling the 'washer woman' effect.

Though he was nude, he seemed quite clean, as though he'd just been bathed.

-His nails were cut very close. His hair too had been recently cut quite short.

Each meager clue was carefully followed. The Indian-pattern blanket in which he was wrapped had been manufactured in North Carolina. It was a fairly typical and common blanket for the time. The cardboard box in which he was found had held a bassinet from J.C. Penney. Many detectives speculate that whoever abandoned the boy at the dump, found the box there. They feel it's unlikely that the box was brought to the dump with the body.

So why wasn't the boy buried, or hidden more effectively? Some Vidocq members believe that the trash dump area held some symbolism for whomever left the boy there. It's possible that the dump was a staging area -the perpetrator wanted the boy to be found, but didn't want the boy to be identified.

 Was it a stranger or his own parents who left him there? Some Vidocq members believe it was his own parents. They speculate that the boy was a 'problem' for the family from the start. His body indicates ongoing health problems - either through natural illness or as a result of abuse. This theory operates on the basis that the extremely short hair and nails may have been some sort of punishment. Maybe that punishment went too far and a strong hand holding the boy by the head literally squeezed the life out of the him - that theory explains the contusions on his forehead, but what about the washerwoman effect on his hand.

 Was the boy washed after death? A sort of burial preparation? Or did he die in water? One theory: as a cruel punishment, someone forced the boy to sit in a bathtub far too long. On a cold February night, a skinny toddler could quickly die of exposure in cool water.

 Because the possibility of a connection to the parents seems so strong, Vidocq member, Frank Bender created a bust of how the boy's father may have looked.

 Bender is the forensic sculptor behind the bust of John List - the infamous killer from New Jersey who took the lives of his entire family. The bust is based on the facial features of the boy and drawn from Frank's decades of experience and well-honed instinct. It's a shot in the dark, but maybe after all these years someone will recognize this man. If the boy's identity is learned he will at least have a name on his headstone and maybe the mystery of his death will be solved.

This is a bust of what the boy's father may have looked like, by Forensic Artist Frank Bender. Mr. Bender is the same artist who created the bust of John List, the man who killed his entire family and then eluded authorities for years. With the airing of the John List bust on the television show "America's Most Wanted", he was apprehended.


A Box Full of Clues


Detective Tom Augustine of the Philadelphia Police Department's Homicide Division is the latest in a long line of investigators to handle the now-41-year-old case of The Boy in The Box. Thanks to the true-crime TV show America 's Most Wanted he may be the last.

In 1957, the abused and malnourished body of a little boy, perhaps4 or 5 years old, was discovered in a box on an overgrown property in Fox Chase. He was never identified, and the mystery has baffled and haunted the various investigators who've become involved over the years.

Earlier this year, the Philadelphia-based Vidocq Society, an exclusive organization of former cops and forensic experts of all sorts, decided to take up the case. The Vidocq Society's involvement caught the interest ofAmerica's Most Wanted, which aired an unusually long segment about the case last Saturday night.

Lieutenant Mike Oswald of the Philadelphia Police Department was in the A~V studio that night, to help field calls from viewers who thought they might know something about the boy's identity.

Oswald and A~l~Z~ operators collected more than 60 tips - from an array of helpful citizens, including self-proclaimed psychics and possible eyewitnesses - which were turned over to Augustine.

The detective says two leads resulting from the show are especially intriguing.

"We got something I got really excited about, from Brazil, Indiana," Augustine says. "We got several tips that there was a young white boy who disappeared when a carnival came to town, never to be seen again." This occurred less than a year before the discovery of The Boy in the Box. Augustine already has contacted investigators there to learn more about the case.

And a few days after the show, a Philadelphia man showed up at Homicide with a story about a half-brother, 14 months older than him, who disappeared around the same time that The Boy in The Box was found. (The half-brother would have been just over 4 years old - right in the range of the victim's estimated age.)

What caught his attention, the man told Augustine, was the bust - created by Vidocq member and renowned forensic sculptor Frank Bender - of what the boy's father might have looked like. The man said the bust looked "exactly" like his deceased father.

"It was a secret among the family for years", Augustine explains. He currently is trying to track down other relatives who might be able to add to the story.

Information about The Boy in The Box can be reported to the Philadelphia Police Department's Homicide Division, 686-3334 or 3335.


Frank Lewis

America's Most Wanted Identity

By William Kenny

Times Staff Writer


It must be hypnotizing, that haunting visage of the lifeless toddler with the short, choppy hair and bruises dotting his face. He must possess some subliminal capacity to draw even typically disinterested observers into his tale of misery and mystery.

 Why else would people far and wide continue to seek answers to a 41-year-old murder case that has been exhaustibly probed time and again, yet which has produced few, if any, definite conclusions?

Discovered on Feb. 25, 1957, the anonymous "Boy in the Box" continues to stupefy laymen and experts alike, who again have pooled their resources, determined to obtain that one piece of information that has eluded them for so long - who was that young boy found inside the cardboard box along Susquehanna Road in Fox Chase?

Last Saturday night, the quest went national, as the television show America's Most Wanted broadcast a segment on the Boy in the Box that was the centerpiece of an episode featuring all crimes from the Philadelphia area.

The segment featured a roundtable-style discussion with current and former members of the police department's homicide division, which reopened the case early this year, as well as members of the Vidocq Society, a Philadelphia-based crime-solving organization specializing in "cold" cases in which all existing leads have been exhausted.

In addition, there were brief recreations of some of the scenarios that investigators speculate may have been the underlying story to the gruesome discovery.

Looking at new leads:

Homicide detectives received no shortage of new leads following the 9 p.m. airing of America's Most Wanted, which encourages viewers to call a toll-free telephone tip line with any information they might have about featured crimes.

 "We had approximately sixty-five tips called into America's Most Wanted and eight to Homicide besides those," said Detective Tom Augustine, who is leading the investigation by the police department. "We have to sort through them now."

Several tips originated from Philadelphia or its outlying areas, such as South Jersey and upstate Pennsylvania.

But others came in from as far away as Southern California, Wyoming, British Columbia, Newfoundland, Maine, New York, Virginia, Alabama, Missouri and Indiana.

Most calls have been anonymous, without even a phone number to follow up on, according to Augustine. Then there's the wide variety of identified tips.

"We have a few psychics calling in, people who had dreams," Augustine said, "but we have a lot of people who are genuine.

"We have one from Modesto, California, which is quite serious. Then we had somebody call in saying it's a(Marie and Arthur) Noe child. We're going to be real busy for a while."

Marie Noe is the 70-year-old Kensington woman who was recently charged with killing eight of her babies in the1950s and '60s.

After decades of dormancy, the Boy in the Box case began to heat up early this year when the police decided to reopen it with the hope that new forensic technology could create more leads. DNA sampling, for instance, was unavailable to the department during the original investigation.

 In March, Augustine, former homicide division investigator Sam Weinstein and Daily News reporter Ron Avery addressed a meeting of the Vidocq Society to present their findings in the case. Weinstein was on the scene on the day of the boy's discovery and was one of the original investigators. Avery was a longtime crime reporter in Philadelphia and has devoted a chapter in his book, City of Brotherly Mayhem, to the case.

Among the members of the 8-year-old Vidocq Society are law enforcement personnel, lawyers, physicians, psychologists, forensic experts and even a sculptor. The sculptor, Frank Bender, is an expert at using forensic information to create a three-dimensional replica of what a wanted or missing person may have looked like at a given time.

His most noted piece was a bust of New Jersey serial killer John List which, after being shown on America's Most Wanted, led to List's apprehension.

Case is a natural

With its seemingly endless variety of both quirky and dramatic elements, the Boy in the Box case was a natural collaboration for Bender's friends and America's Most Wanted.

"This particular story had a lot of elements conducive to television," said Avery Mann, spokesman for America's Most Wanted. "We decided to hire Frank Bender, who we've used numerous times to make forensic busts."

The shooting for the episode was done on location in the Mechanicsville section of the Far Northeast, underneath the Ben Franklin Bridge and at an old home in Wyndmoor, Montgomery County. The first re-creation shown was the discovery of the dead boy by a Peeping Tom in a wooded area behind the former Good Shepherd Home for wayward girls and his subsequent confession to a priest.

Other scenes depicted the boy alive in the abusive care of a series of adults, including a Military couple, a carnival couple, and a psychopath.

Local actors were used, including 5-year-old Garrett Scanlon of Flourtown, who beat out six or seven hopefuls for the part of the Boy in the Box. The blond-haired, fair-skinned Scanlon was a dead ringer for the unknown boy.

"He got the job based on his physical appearance and size. It was basically a non-speaking part," said Janet Scanlon, Garrett's mother.

"(At first) I was told he was to be dressed like a 1950s all-American boy. Then they said to make him a little scruffy, disheveled-looking. You know, like he's been out on the street. I said, 'What?' And they finally said, 'OK, your son's going to be dead. I hope you don't mind."'

Keeping his cool

Garrett worked for two days with the America's Most Wanted crew, during which he played dead inside a cardboard box and did scenes where the boy was still alive. With only a few advertisements to his credit, Garrett was no veteran performer. But he managed to maintain his composure despite the constant screaming and simulated abuse of the actors playing his parents.

"They had somebody off-camera yelling at him, and he had to look frightened," Janet Scanlon said. "He actually told me after the fact that he was a little nervous under the Ben Franklin Bridge.

"(But) each of the actors, before they shot the scene, said to him, 'You know this is pretend.' He knew what was pretend."

The toughest moment of the shoot for Garrett had nothing to do with the screaming of his fellow actors. It was a costume problem..The director wanted him to wear a dress, which he simply did not want to do.

"He was supposed to be a little girl playing with a truck," Janet Scanlon said. "It was very tough for him to do.

They called (producers in) Washington, D.C., to see if they could cut it, and they said 'no."'

The shoot was delayed for an hour and a half before Garrett's father, Edward, convinced him to wear the dress.

The Scanlons later found out it all could have been avoided.

"His main concern, we found out afterward, was his underwear showing," Janet Scanlon said. "We could have put shorts on him, and there would have been no problem."

Garrett was paid a modest compensation for his work, which Janet Scanlon hopes will help fund her son's college education. But the Scanlons also hope that the boy's contribution may help investigators solve the case and give a name to the anonymous Boy in the Box.

"We do hope that, in some small way, we have helped," Janet Scanlon said. "That's something we discussed with Garrett, trying to be a good citizen and to help police."

When asked if he wants to be a policeman when he grows up, Garrett smiled and nodded his head for an emphatic "yes."

"Garrett feels that, too," Janet Scanlon said. "He wants to catch the bad guys."

Anyone with information that could help investigators solve the case should call the Philadelphia police homicide division at 686-3334.

Help The Philadelphia Police Department and The Vidocq Society solve one of America's greatest mysteries, the 1957 death of a young boy whose identity has never been determined.  In October 1998 the award-winning Fox television program America's Most Wanted featured the bizarre unsolved 1957 death of "The Boy in The Box" and numerous leads have been funneled to the Philadelphia Homicide Division.  Vidocq co-founders Bill Fleisher, V.S.M., and Frank Bender, V.S.M., along with now-retired Philadelphia Police Intelligence Bureau officer (and Vidocq Society Member) Sam Weinstein, who was the second to respond to the roadside crime scene in 1957, were seen on the program, along with Richard Walter, V.S.M., a forensic psychologist and Vidocq Society co-founder.


 Bender is the famed artist/sculptor responsible for what is probably the most famous capture by America's Most Wanted: family killer John List.  Bender's "aged" bust of List was so uncannily accurate that shortly after its broadcast a viewer was able to direct authorities to the murderer.


 In the October broadcast Bender displayed bust that he created just for the program that revealed how he believes the young victim's father may have looked in 1957.


 The case, which was featured on the the TV program's former website profoundly affected viewers around the country. As a result, the case's America's Most Wanted chat room remained open for more than three weeks, three times longer than normal.


 Chat room participants, unknown to each other before the TV broadcast, also created a special private email ring to share theories and suggestions. All case-germane postings in the AMW chat area and email ring postings shared with the Vidocq Society were reviewed by the Philadelphia Homicide Division.


On Nov. 3, 1998, pursuant to an Orphans' Court order, the boy's remains were exhumed for DNA analysis. He was reburied with full honors as "America's Unknown Child" in services at beautiful Ivy Hill Cemetery on Nov. 11.

'Bless This Unknown Boy'

City Paper - 10/23/98

 The mystery of The Boy in The Box gnaws at investigators who believe they're one call away from solving the 41-year-old case.

by Frank Lewis


Like it was yesterday, Sam Weinstein sees the bruised little head, the sunken cheeks, the painfully thin, naked body, stretched out and still not filling the cardboard box.

"I'm supposed to be a hardened cop," he says. "I saw a lot of murder and mayhem in World War II. But I never saw anything like what I saw in that box."

That was February 1957. Weinstein was the second cop on the scene after the body of a young boy, perhaps 4 or 5 years old, was discovered in a box on an overgrown lot in the Fox Chase section of Northeast Philadelphia. A nationwide search for answers would prove fruitless, and the tiny victim would continue to be known only as The Boy in The Box.

About 11 years later, Weinstein conducted a routine interview with an aspiring Philly cop named Tom Augustine. Though it didn't come up at the time, Augustine also felt a connection to the case. He grew up not far from the scene, and recalled the posters that seemed to be everywhere in the weeks and months after the discovery. There was no forgetting that ghostly visage, close enough in age to have been his younger brother.

Today, Weinstein is retired; he served for 35 years. Augustine, in his 30th year, is with the Homicide Division's fugitive squad.

Ironically, The Boy in The Box has brought them together again.

Augustine is the latest in a long line of homicide detectives to take on the now-41-year-old case. Weinstein is a member of the Vidocq Society, an exclusive and somewhat secretive organization of former investigators and forensic experts that exists for exactly this type of case. They devote much of their free time to reviewing the voluminous files, and chasing down the tips that resulted from the recent airing of the case by America's Most Wanted.

They hope at least to identify the boy, so that someone can replace the words on the headstone purchased way back when by Philly detectives - "Heavenly Father, Bless This Unknown Boy" - with something more personal. To that end they are considering an exhumation of the Potter's Field grave - to obtain DNA samples that could prove useful in the future - and a reinterment in another cemetery.

"He should be in hallowed ground," says Vidocq Society executive director William Fleisher, "with other children."

Augustine agrees, but won't say much else about the possible exhumation. The matter must be handled with care, he explains - and not just because no one knows how deeply the boy was buried, or how well the tiny wooden casket might have held up.

"People might say, Why disturb him? What's the point?" Augustine says.

"And I admit, I have mixed feelings about it." But with DNA samples on hand, investigators could confirm or rule out the claims of whatever relatives might come forward, tomorrow or 10 years from now, and finally reveal their family's dark secret.

The hope that such a call will come is what keeps Augustine and Weinstein going. Until then, they follow up on the 150 or so tips that resulted from the America's Most Wanted broadcast. Most are actually suggestions - "Have the detectives check area schools," that sort of thing - from well-meaning folks who have no idea how exhaustive the initial investigation was. (One of the boxes cluttering Weinstein's office in the Vidocq Society's Center City headquarters contains hundreds of 3-by-5 cards, each representing one person interviewed.

But some of the tips sounded promising. A woman in Atlantic City, for example, described a news clipping she'd saved, about a missing Vineland, NJ, boy, who simply had to be the boy she saw on AMW.

Augustine called the newspaper, which dug the article out of its archives and faxed him a copy. He was happy to have been saved a trip to Atlantic City when he learned that the Vineland boy had gone missing five years after The Boy in The Box was found.

More recently, he and Weinstein learned that in 1958, an Illinois woman who'd read about the Philadelphia mystery in The Saturday Evening Post told FBI agents that she knew the boy's mother - a "loose" woman who traveled a lot. Once the original report was located, Fleisher tracked down a member of the family by phone, who indicated that the boy he was asking about was now a man and very much alive. She wouldn't give Fleisher his number, but agreed - albeit reluctantly - to pass along a message. At press time, the call had not been returned.

A woman in Modesto, CA, is convinced that the man her aunt married many years ago fled Philadelphia under suspicious circumstances. Local authorities interviewed her at Augustine's request, and sent back a photograph of a boy who might be The Boy in The Box's half-brother.

There is a resemblance, but Weinstein and Augustine have learned it's better not to get excited.

"Every time you think you have something," says Weinstein, "you find something else that contradicts that information."

Even long-accepted facts are called into question. Augustine says Philadelphia Medical Examiner Haresh Mirchandani recently concluded that what had been thought to be signs of multiple intravenous insertions into the boy's leg - an indication that he might have been chronically ill - were actually scars from hernia surgery. A minor point, perhaps, but minor points could make the difference.

In some ways, they know so much. The box in which the boy was laid once held a bassinet purchased at JCPenney in Upper Darby (but the box was seen on the lot weeks before the boy was found). The blanket draped over him was manufactured for only a few years, but 1.5 million were sold across the country. The blue corduroy man's hat found nearby was made in South Philadelphia.

But without the name, they know nothing.

"We're not this much closer to solving this case than we they were in 1957," says Augustine, holding his thumb and forefinger about an inch apart. "In police work, [supervisors] ask where you are with a case.

We're one phone call away from solving it."

Information about The Boy in The Box can be reported to the Philadelphia Police Department's Homicide Division, 686-3334 or 3335.


Box Cops: Vidocq Society member Sam Weinstein (left) and Detective Tom

Augustine review files in an office of the Vidocq Society.



Police plan DNA test in probe of 41-year-old slaying

Philadelphia Inquirer (11/04/98)

 The young victim -- who had come to be known as

"The Boy in the Box'' -- was exhumed yesterday.

 By Thomas J. Gibbons Jr.



A murder mystery that riveted the city 41 years ago and has perplexed city detectives ever since is about to be reexamined with the help of modern technology.

After securing a court order, homicide detectives yesterday exhumed the body of a never-identified youngster who has come to be known as "the Boy in the Box."

The investigators had gone to the potter's field in the Far Northeast to get DNA from the remains -- an investigatory avenue that was unavailable to detectives more than a generation ago.

"Hopefully, with this new evidence, this DNA evidence, we'll be able to positively link somebody or rule somebody out," said Lt. Kenneth Coluzzi of the Homicide Division, "so we won't just be chasing lead after lead."

At this point, however, investigators have no leads.

The discovery of the body of a young boy in a brown cardboard box left in a wooded area off Susquehanna Road -- then a lonely country lane between Verree and Pine Roads in Fox Chase -- on Feb. 25, 1957, generated widespread interest and frustration.

There was little to help identify the boy. He was clean and he had a crude haircut. He was wrapped in a cheap, colorful cotton blanket that had been cut in half. Investigators believe he was about 4 years old. He had head injuries, but the exact cause of death was never determined.

Yesterday, investigators went to the potter's field, near Mechanicsville and Dunks Ferry Roads, and in the chill fall air located the grave marker that reads: "Heavenly Father, Bless This Unknown Boy."

A backhoe sliced into the earth.

Inspector Jerrold Kane of the Homicide Division said the remains were taken to the Medical Examiner's Office. Once testing is completed, they will be reburied Nov. 11 -- only this time in Ivy Hill Cemetery off Easton Road in the city's Northwest section.

The cost of the burial, according to Kane, will be borne by the Vidocq society -- an association of professional sleuths long interested in the case. The reburial will be done by Craig Mann, of Mann Funeral Home on Tabor Road, whose father handled the original burial.

 Once DNA is harvested it will be stored in the event that someday a lead will pan out. Coluzzi, overseer of the division's cold-case files, thinks DNA could be the key to solving the case.

"Hopefully we can put a name to this little boy. Give him the respect and dignity he deserves," he said, "and then find out who killed him."

Vidocq Society: 11/04/1998

 Cops Hope DNA Will Identify Boy Slain In 1957

 By Nicole Weisensee

Daily News Staff Writer


For 41 years, the boy in the box has rested in his pauper's grave -- unidentified, his murder unsolved.

 Yesterday, in a final attempt to find his killer, police removed him from his solitary grave in a potter's field in Northeast Philadelphia.

 They took his body to the medical examiner's office, where technicians will try to extract DNA from his remains. They hope such evidence will help identify him and eventually help nail his killer.

 "It's hard but it's been done before," said Lt. Ken Coluzzi, head of the special investigations unit at the police Homicide Division. "You should never give up hope. There's a possibility the person who did this is still alive so we should do the best we can."

 It was the morning of Feb. 25, 1957, when police responded to the report of a doll in a box. They found the boy, who was 4 to 6 years old, in a cardboard box in a trash-strewn lot off Susquehanna Road near Verree Road, in Fox Chase.

His nude body, covered with dark bruises, was wrapped in a checked, flannel blanket. He was bathed and his nails were clean. The medical examiner determined the cause of death was multiple blunt-force trauma.

On Oct. 3, Fox's "America's Most Wanted" aired a segment on the boy in the box and unveiled a sculpture by Philadelphian Frank Bender showing what the blond boy's father might have looked like.

As a result of the publicity, homicide investigators received dozens of tips, Coluzzi said. Although none of them has panned out, investigators decided to exhume the body to try to extract DNA.

"Now that we have DNA that we didn't have in 1957, we thought it was time to secure it," said Homicide Inspector Jerrold Kane.

The boy will be reburied at 11 a.m. next Wednesday at Ivy Hill Cemetery on Easton Road by the Vidocq Society, a crime-solving organization made up of forensic professionals. Craig Mann, whose father originally buried the boy, is donating a coffin as well as the burial services, said Dick Lavinthal, spokesman for the Vidocq Society.

Lavinthal also said the public is welcome to come to the burial.

From now on until he's positively identified, this will no longer be the boy in the box," he said. "He will be America's unknown boy."


Our Press Advisory Yesterday

Vidocq Society NEWS Advisory


6 PM TUESDAY - 1998 - NOVEMBER 3rd

 Further Information: Dick Lavinthal 215-545-1450


PHILADELPHIA, PA. Philadelphia Homicide Division detectives today executed an Orphan's Court order that takes one of America's greatest crime mysteries to a new milestone.

Using hand tools and a backhoe they exhumed from potter's field the coffin containing a never-identified four-year-old boy whose nude body was placed in a cardboard box and tossed onto a roadside trash heap in 1957.

The sad case of this unknown boy was reopened earlier this year by Philadelphia Homicide detectives. The Vidocq (pronounced "Vee-Dock") Society is supporting the investigation. A retired Philadelphia police intelligence unit detective who was the second patrolman to respond to the crime scene in 1957 is among the Vidocq Society Members helping with the revivified police investigation.

America's Most Wanted featured the case on Oct. 3rd after the Vidocq Society convinced the Fox Television program that the child might be identified by someone outside of Philadelphia. As a result, numerous fresh leads have been received by Philadelphia Homicide detectives, leading to today's exhumation. The broadcast has peaked investigator's hopes that a solution of the decades-old case could be close.

After the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's office obtains tissue samples for DNA analysis the boy's body is to be re-buried at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11th but not in potter's field. Instead, the boy will be interred in Ivy Hill Cemetery, 1201 Easton Rd., in Philadelphia's Mount Airy section. A solitary bagpiper will play and Philadelphia Police department chaplains of four faiths (Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim) will offer prayers for the boy.

In a wonderful act of charity Craig Mann of the Mann Funeral Home (whose father originally buried the dead boy in 1957) has donated the coffin, burial vault and funeral services. The cemetery, on Easton Road in Philadelphia's Mt. Airy section, is donating the burial plot, according to David G. Drysdale Sr. and Jr., managers. The FBI Evidence Recovery Team also assisted at today's exhumation.

"No longer shall the child buried in potter's field be called 'The Boy in the Box,'" Vidocq Society Commissioner William Fleisher said. "After this ceremony, and until he is identified, he will be known to all of us as 'America's Unknown Boy.'

The public is invited to attend the graveside services. Philadelphia Police Commissioner John F. Timoney will attend. Ben J. Ermini, Director of the Missing

Childrens Bureau at National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in suburban Washington will represent the internationally-known organization. Also attending will be Police Detective Thomas Augustine and all key members of the law enforcement team that is conducting the investigation.

"Because he is America's Unknown Child everyone who has been touched by this sad story can pay respects to a child whose plight has transfixed the Delaware Valley for more than 4 decades," Fleisher said. "I am predicting a large turnout because few persons over 40 who live in the Delaware Valley are not aware of the case and the extraordinary lengths to which The Philadelphia Police Department went to solve the case in the1950s."

The Vidocq Society (, established in 1990, is a non-profit organization of active and retired forensic, law enforcement and other experts who volunteer their services at no charge to help solve unsolved murders.

Vidocq's office is at 1704 Locust Street in Philadelphia.

Authorities using DNA to identify boy killed in '57

 Philadelphia Tribune On-line Edition - November 6, 1998

 Chad G. Glover - Tribune Staff


For 41 years, no one knew his name, age, or where he was from. But last Tuesday his body was removed from its resting place in a Northeast Philadelphia cemetery and sent to the medical examiner's office in an effort to identify him using DNA testing.

Authorities called him the "Boy in the box" because they didn't have anything better to call him. No family members came forth to claim him. No neighbors lamented his absence on the city streets.

 "Hopefully we can put a name on this little boy," said police Lt. Ken Gozzi in published reports. "Give him the respect and dignity that he deserves. And then find out who killed him."

 The boy was found in 1957. His hair sloppily trimmed and his arms folded neatly on his chest. He was swaddled, nude, in a cheap flannel blanket.

 His nails were trimmed and his bathed body lay peacefully in a cardboard box. In a nearby thicket lay a brand-new cap. It looked like someone had prepared him for burial, only to leave him in a trash-strewn lot.

His naked body was, however, covered with dark bruises. His eyes had been sealed shut, his eyeballs drawn deep into their sockets.

 Medical examiners determined that he had died of blunt-force trauma. Police estimated that he was between 4- and 6-years-old.

 His death shook Philadelphia. He came to embody lost innocence in an era characterized by sock-hops and "I Love Lucy." His tragic story was on the lips of every Philadelphian, but still no answers came. The leads the police did receive were eventually dead ends.

The "Boy in the box" was buried in a potters field beneath a marker reading, "Heavenly Father, Bless This Unknown Boy." With the exception of the chain of investigators who worked the case, Philadelphians eventually forgot about the boy. However, a forensic bust of the boy, and one portraying what his father may have looked like rekindled interest in the boy after it was aired on the Oct. 3 episode of "America's Most Wanted."

On Nov. 11, the boy will be reburied at Ivy Hill Cemetery under the name "America's Unknown Boy."


Public Graveside Services for "AMERICA'S UNKNOWN CHILD" were held 11 a.m. Wednesday Nov. 11th in Ivy Hill Cemetery, Mount Airy Section, Philadelphia.


The Vidocq Society offers its heartfelt and sincere thanks to the approximately 100 people who attended the burial services.  If you are touched by this sad death, your gift, in the name of "America's Unknown Child" would be greatly appreciated by The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Washington, D.C.


National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Unknown Child Fund

2101 Wilson Boulevard; Suite 500

Arlington, Virginia 22201-3077



PHILADELPHIA, PA. - Public graveside services for "America's Unknown Child" were held on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 1998.


Among those participating in the services were; Ben J. Ermini, Director of the Missing Childrens Division at National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in suburban Washington, D.C.; Assistant Philadelphia District Attorney Charles Gallagher; Richard Costello, president of Philadelphia Lodge 5, Fraternal Order of Police; and Michael Lutz, president of the Pennsylvania State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police.


Philadelphia Homicide Detective Thomas Augustine and all key members of the law enforcement team that is conducting the investigation into one of America's greatest crime mysteries also attended the graveside service, along with members of the Philadelphia FBI's Evidence Recovery Team.


On Nov. 3, 1998 Philadelphia Homicide Division detectives executed an Orphan's Court order that brought this baffling case to a new milestone.  The court order directed law enforcement to exhume the child and, after testing, re-inter him in Ivy Hill Cemetery.   The Vidocq (pronounced "Vee-Dock") Society is supporting the investigation.  A retired Philadelphia police intelligence unit detective who was the second patrolman to respond to the crime scene in 1957 is among the Vidocq Society Members helping with the revivified police investigation.


America's Most Wanted featured the case on Oct. 3rd after the Vidocq Society convinced the Fox Television program that the child might be identified by someone outside of Philadelphia. As a result, numerous fresh leads have been received by Philadelphia Homicide detectives, leading to the exhumation and peaking investigator's hopes that a solution is possible for the decades-old case.


Craig Mann of the Mann Funeral Home (whose father originally buried the dead boy in 1957) donated the coffin, burial vault and funeral services.  The cemetery donated the gravesite, according to David G. Drysdale Sr. and Jr., Ivy Hill Cemetery's managers.  A beautiful serpentine black headstone is being donated by Lawrence F.M. Conroy of Cartledge-Gallagher-Stefan, Inc. of Cheltenham, Pennsylvania.


The Vidocq Society (, established in 1990, is a non-profit organization of active and retired forensic, law enforcement and other experts who volunteer their services at no charge to help solve unsolved murders.  Vidocq's office is at 1704 Locust Street in Philadelphia.


Unknown Child Press Reports:


The Associated Press

Philadelphia Inquirer Nov. 12, 1998    Nov. 4, 1998

Philadelphia Daily News Nov. 12, 1998    Nov. 4, 1998

 The Boy in the Box is reburied as America's Unknown Child

At least 100 attended to pay their respects to the unidentified boy, who was killed 41 years ago.

 Philadelphia Inquirer - November 12, 1998

 By Clea Benson



The first time they buried him, 41 years ago, it was in the potter's field in the Far Northeast, a graveyard for executed prisoners, unidentified bodies, and body parts. The only people at the funeral were about a dozen police detectives and staff from the Medical Examiner's Office who had taken up a collection to help pay the expenses. His tombstone read, "Heavenly Father, Bless This Unknown Boy."

His grave, the only one with a marker in that Northeast Philadelphia burial ground, was lovingly tended by strangers who lived nearby.

Last week, four decades later, the tiny murder victim's body was exhumed so investigators could gather valuable DNA evidence.

Yesterday morning, just after the rain cleared, the child known only as the Boy in the Box was interred once again. This time, at least 100 people attended a graveside service as his tiny white casket stood against a backdrop of yellow leaves and blue sky near the elegant stone gates of the Ivy Hill Cemetery in Mount Airy.

At the head of the boy's grave stood a new, black granite marker, carved with a lamb and a new name, "America's Unknown Child."

"Today, we are re-interring him and calling him America's Unknown Child as a symbol of our nation's abused children, missing children, and murdered children," said William Fleisher, head of the Vidocq Society, an organization of forensic professionals who work on unsolved cases. "We are validating this little boy's life. Our mission is to go forward from this day and put a name on that tombstone."

People who long ago were touched by the story of the boy whose mangled body was found inside a cardboard box attended the burial as well. Some brought flowers.

Rita O'Vary, a school-bus driver and pony-ride operator from Boyertown, clutched a bouquet of blue carnations that she said was from the children who ride her bus.

"I was 10 when it happened," said O'Vary, 51. "My job revolves around children, and I never forgot him. The poor little guy. Somebody has to know who he is."

Nancy Whelan, also 51, came from Havertown to pay her respects. "Keep in mind that when we were kids, this kind of thing never happened," she said. "I've prayed for him my whole life and I just felt compelled to let him know we didn't forget."

The Boy in the Box is a murder mystery that riveted the city when he was found on Feb. 25, 1957, and continues to confound investigators today.

A college student stumbled across the boy in a brown cardboard box left on top of a trash pile in a wooded area off of Susquehanna Road in Fox Chase. There were few clues to his identity. He was clean, and his fine, blond hair had been crudely cut. Authorities believe he was 3 to 5 years old. Bruises covered his body, and the Medical Examiner ruled that he had died of blunt-force trauma.

The investigation was reopened recently by Homicide Detective Tom Augustine, retired Philadelphia Police Detective Sam Weinstein, and Fleisher of the Vidocq Society. Last month, a story on the boy aired on America's Most Wanted, generating hundreds of new leads that the investigators are following.

As part of the renewed effort, authorities dug up the boy's remains so they could take DNA samples in the hope that new genetic technology could lend a clue to his identity. Investigators said the DNA evidence would allow them to positively link somebody or rule somebody out.

However, they have no leads.

Yesterday, an African Methodist Episcopal minister, a priest, and a rabbi gave prayers for the boy, and a bagpiper played a mournful tune. Weinstein recited kaddish, his voice breaking at times. When he was finished, he walked to his seat next to Augustine's, and the two men embraced.

The cemetery donated the gravesite. The Mann Funeral Home, which provided services the first time the boy was buried, did so again and donated the casket.

Weinstein, who was the second patrol officer on the scene when the boy's body was found, recalled looking at the child's face as he lay in the box.

"I saw all his pain and his suffering and his anguish," Weinstein said. "It was as though he was speaking to me: 'What happened?' 'Why?' And that was an answer I couldn't give."

The Funeral - Phila. Daily News

Date: 11/12/98

Boy in box gets fitting burial

Today, we're declaring him 'America's Unknown Child'

By Marisol Bello

Daily News Staff Writer


Everybody wants to claim the unknown boy in the box.

The frail, blond boy's battered and nude body was found in a trash-strewn lot in the Northeast. No one knows his age or where he's from.

Yesterday, probers who've been trying to discover the boy's identity, tried to give him back some dignity by moving his remains from his pauper's grave to a special place at the entrance of Ivy Hill Cemetery in Cedarbrook.

But residents of the Parkwood section of the Far Northeast, where the boy's body had rested in Potter's Field for 41 years, are upset that the body was moved. They tried unsuccessfully to keep the remains.

For them, the child had become part of their neighborhood. Adults grew up visiting the child's grave. School children trekked to the grave to leave flowers and trinkets.

"He's always been here," said Sue Fisher, 48, who grew up in Parkwood and remembers going with her mother as a child to clean up the gravesite. "He's been a part of my life since I was 7 years old."

"We want to pay homage to the little boy who never had a chance while he was alive," said Sam Weinstein, 72, a retired Philadelphia police detective who was the second officer on the scene when the boy's body was found.

About 100 mourners silently gathered as a bagpiper played "Going Home."

Four pallbearers, including Weinstein and a retired officer who took the original radio call in 1957, carried the wooden casket from a hearse to the gravesite.

Catholic, Protestant and Jewish clergymen offered prayers for the boy. The casket, headstone, funeral services and burial plot were all donated.

"Today, we're declaring him 'America's Unknown Child,' " said William Fleisher, commissioner of the Vidocq Society, a crime-solving organization made up of forensic professionals. Weinstein and Fleisher are working with Philadelphia detectives to crack the decades-old case.

Last week, investigators exhumed the boy's body to try to test his remains for DNA in hopes that it may lead to his identity. The case received new attention last month when the television show "America's Most Wanted" featured a segment on the boy. The Daily News has offered a$5,000 reward for information about his identity.

Lead homicide detective Tom Augustine said the department has since received more than 200 calls from all over the country and Canada. The case has always captivated the city. The boy was found during a time when it was rare for a child to be left for dead in a vacant lot.

The 30-pound, 40-inch boy was between 3 and 5 years old. His body, covered with bruises, was wrapped in a blanket then placed in a cardboard box. Over the years, detectives chased thousands of leads. They're still not any closer to learning the boy's name.

Yesterday, Weinstein remembered the bare-bones funeral held for the child in 1957 when a group of officers and detectives donated money to buy him a small headstone. A detective donated one of his son's suits for the boy.

Weinstein watched as the remains were lowered into the ground for the final time. As the casket disappeared from view, he gave the boy a military salute.

Philadelphia Daily News

February 25, 1999

 I REMEMBER...February 25, 1957

The still-mysterious 'Boy in the Box'


The young boy, between three and five years old, had been placed in the large cardboard box with care. His hair was freshly cut and nails neatly clipped. He had been bathed recently and his arms folded across his chest before his lifeless, nude body was carefully wrapped in a blanket.

That was the macabre sight greeting the investigators that I accompanied into the woods off Susquehanna Road, near Verree, in Fox Chase 42 years ago today, and the beginning of the mystery of "the Boy in the Box" that endures to this day.

 Regrettably, it is a mystery that a generation of investigators may take to their own graves.

One of those investigators was Remington Bristow, who followed us to the scene on that blustery late winter day and became obsessed with who the youngster might be, how he died and how he ended up in a large cardboard box.

Rem Bristow had seen countless murder victims in his 19 years as an investigator for the medical examiner's office. He was a master at attaching names to people who had gone to their maker without an identity.

He retired in 1975 after pursuing thousands of leads about who the boy might be. All but one were dead ends. Bristow kept coming back to one family who he felt might have known about the boy, but he was unable to develop the lead.

Bristow acknowledged that there were bruises on the boy's forehead, but felt the child's death was natural or accidental, not a homicide. Whoever put the boy in the box may have been poor, given the shabbiness of the blanket, and may have been frightened away while looking for a place to bury him.

"There was a show of love, not disrespect," he said of the careful manner in which the boy was laid out.

Six months to the day he was found, we buried the boy in a small plot, Grave 191, at the city cemetery in the Parkwood section of the Far Northeast. For years, it was the only one with a tombstone, paid for by Bristow and the other investigators who worked on the case. "Heavenly Father, Bless This Unknown Boy," the tombstone read.

"It was a very sad occasion," Bristow said of the burial. "The hardest thing in the world is to bury a child. No matter how tough we were, what we saw during the course of our jobs, when it came to burying that child we all had a weak spot."

Police continue to pursue leads. The boy's body was exhumed in November for DNA tests following a segment about the child on the "America's Most Wanted" television show, and we reburied him in Ivy Hill Cemetery in Cedarbrook.

May the boy in the box rest in peace.


 Philadelphia Daily News - 09/25/99


by Nicole Weisensee, Daily News Staff Writer

He still doesn't have a name.
And police may never find his killer.
But after 42 years, police have a color picture of how the bruised and battered boy in the box might have looked if he were happy and healthy.
They unveiled it on Monday at a special Mass celebrated by Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua at his private chapel on City Avenue near 56th Street.
It is a good likeness of the boy, said retired Philadelphia Police Officer Elmer Palmer, 72, who was the first cop to respond to the scene that day.
"Maybe it will shake somebody's conscience," he said. "But it's been so long the person who did it might be dead."
Lt. Kenneth Coluzzi, head of the Homicide Division's special investigations unit, said they haven't given up hope on finding out who murdered the boy. Or at least finding out who he is.
"It would really be something if, after all this time, we could at least find out who the little boy is and give him a name," he said.
Palmer was responding to a report of a doll in a cardboard box in the woods near Susquehanna Avenue and Verree Road, in Fox Chase, on Feb. 25, 1957. But he said he knew as soon as he saw the body that it was a dead child, not a doll, and that he'd been brutally murdered.
He had bruises all over his nude body, his eyes were sunken into his face and the back of his head was bashed in. The boy, whose age was between four and six years old, was wrapped in a checked, flannel blanket.
The medical examiner ruled the boy died from multiple blunt force trauma.
It was the first murdered child Palmer had seen during his seven years on the force, he said.
"I think when a child is involved it bothers you more than anything," he said.
The case captured the hearts of Philadelphians. It was a time, unlike now, when young children were rarely murdered.
"The first thing every detective does when they're transferred into homicide is look at the file on the boy in the box," Coluzzi said. "That's the kind of impact it had."
Last fall the Vicocq Society, a local crime-solving group of forensic professionals, moved the boy's body from his pauper's grave in Parkwood to the Ivy Hill Cemetery in Cedarbrook.
Investigators took that opportunity to see if DNA could be extracted from his bones to help identify him. The bones were too old and brittle, though, Coluzzi said yesterday.
The publicity helped stir interest in the case again, as did a segment on "America's Most Wanted" that aired one year ago. Police tracked down nearly 200 tips they got but none proved fruitful.
"We thought two of them were real, real good," Coluzzi said. "They came from people who lived in the area. But they didn't pan out."
However, a police employee was so moved by the unknown boy's tragedy that she wrote to Pope John Paul II and asked him for a blessing for the boy and for the detectives working the case.
After several appeals, the pope granted her request, said Capt. Linda MacLachlin, a Police Department spokeswoman.
The woman, who didn't want her name used, then petitioned Bevilacqua to offer a Mass for him, MacLachlin said. When he granted the request, the woman went to Roderick Scratchard, a graphic artist for the Philadelphia Police Department.
"She asked him if he would draw a likeness of him without his injuries," MacLachlin said. "He was so badly beaten she wanted him to look as if he were happy and healthy." Scratchard drew the picture from autopsy photographs. Police urged anyone with information on the case to call them at 215-686-3334 or 3335.
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Police sketch of unidentified "boy in box" killed 42 years ago.

Philadelphia Inquirer - 11/12/99

Boy slain in '57 still unidentified but not forgotten

The young victim was known as the Boy in the Box.

Yesterday, a park bench was dedicated near his grave.

By Suman Pradhan



Yesterday morning was cold, chilly and cloudy with a hint of rain in the air, but by the time a small group of people at Ivy Hill Cemetery began a dedication ceremony, the clouds had cleared and the sun was brightly shining.

In many ways, William L. Fleisher remembered, the day was just like the one exactly a year ago.

Nov. 11, 1998, was also cold and cloudy. It had even rained that morning. But when the time came to rebury the Boy in the Box - that day renamed America's Unknown Child - the rains had stopped, the clouds had parted, and the sun shone brightly from a blue sky.

The similarities were not lost on Fleisher, commissioner of the Vidocq Society, a group of crime and forensic experts who try to solve long-unsolved crime mysteries.

"It is as if God wanted to clear the day for this little boy just as He did last year," Fleisher said pointing toward the sky.

Last year, he and several colleagues had gathered at the cemetery for the reburial of the young murder victim who was found Feb. 25, 1957, in a brown cardboard box left on top of a trash pile in a wooded area off Susquehanna Road in Fox Chase.

There were few clues to his identity. He was clean, and his fine blond hair was crudely cut. Authorities believed he was 3 to 5 years old. Bruises covered his body, and the medical examiner ruled he had died of blunt-force trauma.

The Boy in the Box, as he came to be known, was buried shortly thereafter in a potter's field in the Far Northeast, a graveyard for executed prisoners, unidentified bodies, and body parts.

But last year, more than four decades after the burial, his body was exhumed by investigators hoping to solve the case with the help of modern investigative techniques. They gathered valuable DNA evidence and reburied the body in a donated tiny white casket in a donated plot at Ivy Hill Cemetery, a move that the Vidocq Society said was to give some dignity and respect for the unknown murder victim.

Yesterday, members of the Vidocq Society and longtime investigators gathered again at the cemetery, this time to dedicate a small white granite park bench near the polished black headstone marking the grave.

"This bench is for all those who come to visit the grave and pay their respects to America's Unknown Child," Fleisher said. "They can sit on it and contemplate on the boy and all the children who are abused not just in America but all over the world."

It was a ceremony marked with poignancy. The two dozen or so people at the ceremony stood in silence as Christian and Jewish prayers were said. A lone bagpiper played a lonely tune that underscored the solemnity of the occasion. Fresh flowers adorned the grave. Small toys left by earlier mourners were still lined up neatly by the headstone.

"Oh, it's such a sad day," murmured Marie Bennet, 74, of Fairmount, tears welling in her eyes. "This was the first child whose identity was never known, who was so brutally abused. How many more since have suffered abuse? I hope this helps to keep everyone's mind focused on the issue."

Many of the original police personnel who had investigated the crime were on hand. Elmer Palmer, 72, and Sam Weinstein, 73, who were the first and second police officers on the crime scene, stood nearby, silently gazing at the headstone. Also in attendance was Mann Funeral Home's Craig Mann, whose father had originally handled the boy's funeral.

"When the call came on the radio that day," Palmer said, "they said it was a doll in a box. But when I got there, I saw it was not a doll, but a beautiful young boy. It's something that always sticks with you. It feels bad that nobody ever found out who the boy was. But hopefully some day, the mystery will be resolved."

That is the hope that keeps the Vidocq Society working on the case. The society has been funding new investigations by a team that includes Weinstein, Philadelphia Homicide Detective Tom Augustine, and William H. Kelly, a former identification supervisor with the Philadelphia Police Department.

"I don't want the public to forget that the boy was a human being," Weinstein said. "He had no choice in his birth, and no chance to live."

Weinstein is confident that one day the case will be solved.

"We have followed hundreds of leads since last year, but nothing has come of it yet," he said. "But we hope that somebody's conscience will prick them and they could come forward some day."

The Vidocq Society's Fleisher summed up the group's determination to solve the case: "The investigations will go on, even after we are gone. Someone else will step in to keep up the work."