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Philadelphia Evening Bulletin - 02/26/57

Body of Boy Found in Box In Fox Chase

Victim, 4 to 6, Appears to Have Been Bruised


The body of a boy between four and six, nude and bruised, was found in a cardboard box just off Susquehanna road west of Verree road, Fox Chase, shortly before 11 A.M. today.

A preliminary examination indicated he had been dead more than two days. The body was wrapped in a blanket.

The boy had dark brown hair, blue eyes, and was thin-featured and of slender build. He weighed about 30 pounds and was three feet five inches tall.

There were bruises or discolorations on his face, stomach and legs, police said.


Evidences of Injury

Dr. Joseph W. Spelman, chief medical examiner, who pronounced the boy dead at the scene, said there were "evidences of injury" but that the extent of the injury had not yet been determined.

Detectives of the homicide squad, the Northeast Criminal Investigation Division and the police started an intensive search to find out the boy's identity.

They also began an examination of the area for clues as to how the child met his death.

An autopsy was performed at the morgue in an effort to determine whether the boy had been sexually assaulted. Detectives said there were not so many bruises as to suggest that he was beaten to death. The possibility of smothering also was being explored.

A few feet away from the box, in the road, detectives found an Ivy League style cap of blue gabardine, with an adjustable belt at the back. It was size 7 1/8 - a man's size. But there was paper stuffed into it, as though it had been worn by someone for whom it was too big.

The cap was trampled and dirty, but apparently had not been there very long, investigators said.

The cap and the cardboard box were taken to the crime laboratory in City Hall.

On the box the word "furniture" was stamped in red. It had at one time been sealed across the top with gummed blue paper.


Handle With Care

It also bore the markings "Fragile" and "Handle With Care." On the top in block red letters it said "Do Not Open With Knife." There was a marking "Pkg. 25 F." There also was an arrow pointing toward the top.

The box, detectives said, measured 36 inches high, 19 inches wide and 14 inches deep.

Through serial numbers, according to investigators, it was traced to a department store at 69th st.

Captain David Roberts, of the homicide squad, scoured the files back to January 1 for any report of a missing boy in the area. There was none, he said. He sent teletype messages to communities surrounding Fox Chase and further to the north of the city asking for reports of any missing youngsters.


Call From Student

The body was found as the result of a telephone call to police from Fred Benonis, 26, of 2013 E. Lansing st., a junior at LaSalle College.

The call came in at the police switchboard in City Hall at 10:10 this morning. Benonis was switched immediately to Detective Sergeant Charles Gargani, of homicide.

According to Gargani, Benonis told him he thought he saw a head protruding from a corrugated cardboard box just alongside Susquehanna road, about 500 yards west of Verree road. This would be between Verree and Pine road.

Gargani said Benonis gave this account:

Benonis was driving along Susquehanna road yesterday, on his way home from classes, and he saw a rabbit running across the road. He stopped the car and chased after the rabbit, which hopped into some underbrush.

He came to some muskrat traps, which were not set, this not being the season. He thought he would set the traps and see what happened.


Mistaken for Doll

 Then he saw the cardboard box. It was lying on its side and one end was open. He didn't inspect it closely but he thought there "may have been a large doll in it."

Benonis thought no more about it, according to Gargani, until this morning when he heard about the four-year-old girl missing from Bellmawr, N.J. Then he called police and told them about the box, thinking it may have been more important than he at first supposed.

When Gargani got the call, Detectives Edward Repsch and Samuel Powell, of homicide, picked up Dr. Spelman at his office at 13th and Wood sts. and sped to the scene.


Red Cars Converge

Radio messages went out to red cars operating out of the 7th police district at Bustleton av. and Bowler st.

Sergeant Edward Honigman in one car and Patrolmen Gerald Blumberg and Samuel Cohen, who were in another, met at the scene.

With the description of the spot furnished by Benonis and relayed to them, they searched for about 15 minutes and then found the box.

Blumberg said it was lying at the junction of two foot paths. There was some trash scattered around it.


Navajo Blanket

He said the blanket was of the Navajo type, in a design of brown, tan and another light shade.

Meanwhile, Detective Lieutenant William Lovejoy, of the Northeast CID, arrived with more detectives. Fire Rescue Squad No. 12, of Cottman and Loretto avs. also went to the spot.

The spot it was concealed in is an isolated wooded area across the road from the entrance to the home of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

The body was taken to the morgue.

Detective Joseph Tomaselli was sent to command 12 uniformed policemen making a search of the underbrush nearby, looking for any sign of the boy's clothes.


 Philadelphia Inquirer - 02/27/57

Beaten Boy's Body Found in Box

Seek Clues To Identity Of Youngster

Driver Discovers Death Carton in Fox Chase Field


The nude body of a small boy, apparently molested and beaten by a sadist, was found yesterday in a large cardboard box in a patch of weeds and scrub growth off Susquehanna rd. near Verree rd., in the Fox Chase area of the Northeast.

Detectives were confronted with mystery even as to the child's identity, since no youngster of the victim's age - between 4 and 6 - has been reported missing in this area since the first of the year.



Examination of the body indicated death had occurred two or three days ago.

The boy, described by police as "a very nice looking child," was slender and thin-faced and weighed between 35 and 40 pounds. He was blue-eyed, and his dark brown hair had been crudely cut in crew style.

The police repeatedly broadcast a description of the boy over their radio network in the hope that someone would be able to give some information that would lead to his identity.



Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Joseph W. Spelman reported last night after conducting an autopsy that the boy's death "is definitely due to homicide, and that is all I can say at this time." He said there were bruises all over the body, particularly on the head, legs and arms.

Spelman said he did not want to state the specific medical cause of death until laboratory tests have been completed. But police said the examiner's office told them the boy died of the blows on the head.

Chief Inspector John J. Kelly said there was little doubt the slaying was committed in another location and the body was transferred by auto to the spot it was found. Kelly said the boy's haircut, which was described as non-professional or "home-made", and the fact he was not reported missing, indicated he may have lived in an institution.



With this possibility in mind, red car crews were dispatched to check every orphanage, hospital or similar institution caring for boys in the city. City, State and private welfare agencies here and in South Jersey also were asked to make a survey to determine if any of their wards were missing from foster homes.

A 48-State message giving a description of the child was sent out over the police teletype system and the information was telephoned directly to police in Cheltenham and Abington townships and other suburban communities. Kelly appealed for the public to aid in the identification attempt and urged anyone with information to contact City Hall immediately.

The body was wrapped in a faded plaid blanket that had been torn in halves. It lay face up in a corrugated box, the markings of which showed it originally had been used for shipment of furniture, but gave no indication of the store or company from which it came.



Patrolmen Gerald Blumberg and Samuel Cohen, who had been sent to the scene at the order of Sgt. Edward Honigman when he received a call from homicide detectives' headquarters at City Hall, discovered the body at 10:40 A.M.

Within half an hour the area was swarming with homicide men, district detectives and policemen, seeking clues. The first found was an "Ivy League" type plaid cap. It lay about 30 feet from the cardboard box.

It was noticed and reported to homicide detectives by Frederick Benonis, 26, of 2013 E. Lansing st., a junior at LaSalle College, who said he first saw the box on Sunday, and thought the figure inside it was a discarded doll.

Benonis told Homicide Sgt. Charles Gargani, to whom he made his first telephone report, that he was driving on Susquehanna rd. Sunday when a rabbit ran in front of his car. Benonis said he jumped out and chased the rabbit, but lost sight of it in the underbrush.



At the same spot, however, he noticed several unset muskrat traps and decided to set them and "see what happened." While engaged in this, he noticed the cardboard box, he said, and the face of the "doll" inside.

Returning Monday, he found the traps had not been sprung, and again ignored the death box. But when he heard a radio broadcast yesterday morning telling of the search for a missing 4-year-old girl at Bellmawr, N.J., it occurred to him, he said, that the object in the box might not be a doll, but a child, and he telephoned City Hall.

Although police never considered him a suspect, Benonis took a lie detector's test of his own volition last night. The results cleared him of any suspicion, Kelly said.


Murdered Boy May Be 1955 Kidnap Victim

02/27/57- Philadelphia Bulletin

Link Is Hunted to Airman's Son Taken At Long Island Store


Detectives here today were checking whether the young boy found murdered in Fox Chase yesterday was the missing Steven Craig Damman.

The Damman boy, son of an airman stationed at Mitchel Air Force Base, N.Y., was kidnapped outside a Long Island supermarket, October 31, 1955, when he was 34 months old.

The boy, whose nude body was found in a cardboard box here on a rubbish strewn lot, appears to have been between four and five years old - which would coincide with Steven's age now.

The murdered boy had blue eyes and a small scar under his chin. So did the missing Damman boy.


Check Footprints

To establish whether or not the murdered boy was Steven Damman, police are sending his footprints to Nassau County, N.Y. detectives for comparison with those of the kidnapped child taken at birth.

Homicide detectives said the legs of the boy found murdered here are too bruised to be able to tell whether the right calf had a birthmark there as Steven had.

At the time of Steven's disappearance he was described as 38 inches tall, weighing 32 pounds and having blond hair.


Violently Murdered

Dr. Joseph Spelman, city medical examiner, who performed a two-hour autopsy on the slain boy, establishing that he had been violently murdered, said he was closer to four than five years old.

The medical examiner said the child was 40 1/2 inches tall and weighed 30 pounds. He had medium brown hair, cropped short, and was rather slender.

Dr. Spelman said that in addition to the scar under the chin, the boy's body also had a slight scar on the front of the chest and another on an ankle. He said these three scars appear to be old ones and normally acquired.


Telephone Conference

Stuyvesant A. Pinnell, chief of Nassau County detectives, who has headed the investigation of the Damman kidnapping, held a telephone conference today with Captain David H. Roberts, head of the Philadelphia homicide squad.

Pinnell said the age and the general description of the murdered boy matched to some degree that of the missing child.

He said that in order to determine whether or not they were the same person, Roberts was making another minute examination of the body, in addition to taking the footprints.

Pinnell said X-rays would be taken to determine whether the murdered boy had suffered a fractured left arm which subsequently healed well. He said the Damman child sustained such an injury in January, 1954.

Pinnell said Steven also had an abnormal condition of the right kidney. He said Steven had also suffered a ruptured right eardrum in September, 1955, and had a birthmark-like mole or freckle on his right calf.

The Nassau County detective chief said that Steven had had three stitches taken in a chin cut on May 18, 1953.

Dr. Spelman said that the boy's body would be moved from the morgue to Philadelphia General Hospital for the X-ray examinations.


Dead 2 Days At Least

Dr. Spelman said the cool weather made it difficult to tell how long the child had been dead. He said it was at least two or three days and that it was possible it was as long as two or three weeks.

But he said he did not believe the body had been very long at the spot where it was found. He said the child had not eaten within the last couple of hours before his death.

Fibers found near the body that might be human hair are being checked out in the laboratory.


Tests For Assault

Dr. Spelman said laboratory tests also would be made to determine whether or not the murdered boy had been sexually assaulted.

In another development, it was reliably reported, despite official denials, that police were questioning a man who told them of a strange incident he witnessed last Sunday near the spot where the boy's body was found.

The witness said that he was driving along the road when he saw a car that was stopped with a woman and a boy about 12 standing by the car trunk.

The witness said he halted his own car, thinking the woman had a flat tire, and asked if he could be of any assistance. He said that both the woman and boy remained absolutely mute.


Thought It Strange

He said he thought this was strange but decided they didn't want him interfering with whatever they were doing so he drove off.

Chief Inspector John J. Kelly and Captain Roberts spent some time this morning examining the torn halves of a cheap and well-worn blanket found in the cardboard carton along with the boy's body.

On one of the halves, Kelly noticed a small black blob. He ordered a chemical analysis made to determine whether the blob was automobile oil or grease. Kelly said that if it was, it might be an indication the body had been in the trunk of an automobile.


Photos of Blanket

Color pictures also were taken of the halves of the blanket. Detectives will take the pictures to institutions here and in the suburbs to see if it can be identified.

The blanket was of a faded gray background and appeared to have Navajo Indian designs on it. A piece about two feet by two and a half feet was missing from one of the torn halves.

At the time Steven Damman was kidnapped, his parents lived in East Meadow, Long Island. His father, Gerald, 26, was an airman first class. He and the child's mother, Marilyn, also had a daughter, Pamela, then seven months old.

The mother went to a supermarket a block and a half away from the family apartment. She left Pamela strapped in her coach and Steven standing beside it in front of the store. When she came out ten minutes later, she found the two children missing. A friend found Pamela unharmed in her carriage a block and a half from the store.


No Trace Ever Found

No trace ever was found of Steven. Police discounted the report of an elderly woman that she had seen two men and four women take Steven by the hand and walk him to a car parked around the corner from the supermarket.

Steven's parents returned last March 16 to Newton, Iowa, where the father works on a livestock farm, having left the Air Force.

At the conclusion of Dr. Spelman's post mortem examination last night, Chief Inspector John J. Kelly and Captain David H. Roberts, head of the homicide squad, announced that the unidentified boy had been killed by "blows on the head."

Kelly made an urgent appeal to the press and the public for any information which might lead to identification. A minute description of the boy was sent to police in every state in the country as well as township police in the Philadelphia area and the chiefs of county detectives in Montgomery, Delaware and Bucks counties.

This morning, the police department assigned an artist to draw a life-like picture of the boy. Kelly said, if necessary, the picture and an accompanying description will also be sent to police throughout the country.


'Institution' Haircut

The boy had a recent crew-cut, trimmed high around the sides, which police described as a "homemade or institution type" haircut.

Because of this, police districts were ordered to check every institution in the city to find out if any boys were missing. Orphanages and children's homes were covered yesterday and last night but Kelly said none reported any missing children.

Police also began a check of all foster homes caring for children in this area.

State police started the tedious counting of heads in surrounding counties. Local police undertook it here with the assistance of the Welfare Department.


Check on Foster Homes

Welfare Commissioner Randolph E. Wise said his department will make a direct check to account for 64 normal children in foster homes here and about 400 mentally retarded children.

He said half of the latter are in about 36 foster homes in Philadelphia, while the other half are in their own homes. All 400, he said, are waiting placement in state institutions.

Wise said a special check was being made on mentally retarded children at the request of the police.

Police found the body about 10:30 A.M. yesterday after a telephone call from Frederick J. Benonis, 26, of 2013 E. Lansing St., a junior at LaSalle College.

Benonis said he was driving along Susquehanna road west of Verree road on Monday when he saw a rabbit jump into underbrush along the highway. He stopped the car and, while chasing the rabbit, found some muskrat traps.


Thought It Was Doll

He was standing by the traps, he said, when he noticed the cardboard box and saw what he thought was a large doll inside. He remembered the incident yesterday morning when he heard about the missing four-year-old girl in Bellmawr, N.J., and telephoned police because he thought there might be some connection.

Captain Roberts said serial numbers on the box showed it came from a department store in the 69th street section. However, he said, it is a standard size and was not designed for any specific kind of merchandise. There was no address on the box.


Philadelphia Inquirer: 02/28/57

Couple Sought in Boy's Murder

Pair Seen Unloading Car Trunk


A woman and her young male companion who "unloaded something" from an automobile near the Fox Chase thicket where a small boy's nude and beaten body was found Tuesday became prime objectives of a police search last night.

 Lt. William Lovejoy, of the Northeast detective division, said investigators had their "hottest tip so far" on the murder in an account by a passing motorist who saw the pair between 5 and 5:30 P.M. Sunday, some 40 hours before the nameless boy's body was found.

 This latest clue was disclosed as police continued to concentrate on a theory - not necessarily unrelated - that the slain child may have been carried off from an orphanage or other private institution. It also followed close on the collapse of a short-lived report that he might be Steven Damman, an airman's son kidnapped 16 months ago outside a supermarket on Long Island when he was four.



 Lt. Lovejoy and other police investigators declined to identify the witness who saw the pair unloading the car in Fox Chase, but Lovejoy said his description of them and their car was "admirably complete" and might prove a valuable lead toward solution of the crime.

 Both the woman and the boy seemed to be trying to conceal the license plate of the car from him when he drove slowly past, the witness told Lovejoy.

 He said he was driving along Verree rd. when he spotted the car 100 feet west on Susquehanna rd. - the street on which the boy's body was found at 10:20 A.M. Tuesday, two mornings later.



 Thinking the occupants were having tire trouble, he slowed down, but the woman - who he said was "groping" in the car's trunk - and the boy turned their backs on him and stood in positions to hide the license number. He drove on after noting that none of the black-walled tires was deflated.

 The spot he described is nearly 200 feet from where the boy's body was found, but is almost exactly at the place where a pile of clothing - a woman's and a child's - was found in the weeds by the first investigators at the death scene.

 The woman, the witness said, was between 40 and 50, of medium height and heavyset, wearing a checked winter cloth coat. Her boy companion appeared to be between 12 and 14, and was of about the same height as the woman.

 Meanwhile, a more thorough examination and a day-long exchange of information with police authorities in Nassau county on Long Island had demonstrated conclusively that the boy whose battered body, wrapped in a blanket, was found in a cardboard box on the Fox Chase lot, could not be the missing Steven Damman.



 The Damman boy was three years old when he disappeared from in front of an East Meadow, N.Y., supermarket while his mother was buying bread. His father, Gerry, was an airman stationed at Mitchel Air Force Base. He has since been discharged and now lives with his wife and daughter in Newton, Iowa.

 First belief that the boy found slain here, whom an autopsy found to be between 4 and 6, might be Steven was based on age and superficial resemblances in physical characteristics.

 But footprints of the dead boy were compared with those taken at birth of the Damman child and they were found dissimilar. The body of the unknown boy was removed to Philadelphia General Hospital yesterday for X-rays to determine whether he had ever suffered a broken left wrist, as the other child had. There was no sign of a fracture.

 To clinch the matter, the autopsy Tuesday by Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Joseph W. Spelman had shown that the dead boy had normal kidneys. The Damman boy, his parents said, had been under treatment for a kidney growth at the time of his kidnapping.

 Forging ahead on all possible leads, authorities involved in the investigation held an hour-long conference late yesterday in the office of Chief Detective Inspector John J. Kelly at City Hall.



 Their conclusion appeared to be that the most promising line of investigation pointed toward the boy's having been an inmate of an institution - possibly a refuge for mentally retarded youngsters.

 Present at the discussion with Kelly were, Homicide Squad Capt. David H. Roberts; Lt. Lovejoy, a former homicide investigator; State Police Lt. George Sauers, liaison man between State and city police; and Welfare Commissioner Randolph E. Wise.

 Kelly announced at the end of the conference that they had agreed the blanket in which the body was wrapped was their "most significant piece" of evidence, followed closely by the corrugated cardboard box in which it lay.



 The blanket, approximately 5 by 6 feet when whole, had been torn or cut in half. It was of cot size such as might be used in an institution, with a reddish brown overpattern of plaid and something resembling a Navajo Indian design. It was faded and had recently been laundered.

 A strip about two feet wide had been cut from one side of one of the halves, giving rise to conjecture that part of the blanket may have carried the identifying mark of an institution.

 This cut section was turned over to detectives shortly after the conference, and they began a check of children's institutions, both public and private, to find out whether it was recognized.

 Every institution in Philadelphia and surrounding communities will be questioned about the blanket, Commissioner Wise said.



 Wise also announced he would ask for a "census" of all institutions over a wide radius to determine whether any children are missing, and will himself make a direct check on foster homes where some 500 mentally retarded children under court custody are being cared for.

 Inspector Kelly would not expand on his reasons for considering the cardboard box a "significant" clue. It already had been determined that the box, the markings on which showed it had been used to ship a piece of furniture, came originally from a store in Upper Darby.

 Kelly already had indicated that the slain boy's crude crew haircut, evidently given him only a short time before his death, might provide a clue to his identity. Detectives had described it as of "the home-administered or institutional" variety.

 Heightening the belief of investigators that the child was not missing from a normal home was the fact that not a single inquiry had come from anywhere in the country about him yesterday, though the account of his death and description of him had circulated nationwide.

 Joseph Komarnicki, civilian supervisor of the police Missing Persons Bureau, said he had received no inquiries. He said pictures of the slain boy were being prepared for use on television stations over a wide area on the chance that viewers might recognize the boy.

 He was checking hundreds of police teletype messages yesterday to see whether anything that might give a clue had been carried on the wires in the last several weeks.

 State Police Lt. Sauers was called into yesterday's conference to recruit the aid of his organization throughout the State in making a checkup of institutions similar to that being conducted in the Philadelphia area and to extend the search to neighboring States.


02/28/57 Philadelphia Bulletin

Killer May Have Cut Hair Of Boy to Hide Identity


The killer of the unidentified boy whose nude, bruised body was found in a cardboard carton in a field in Fox Chase Tuesday may have cut his victim's hair short to conceal his identity, a top police official said today.

Chief Inspector John J. Kelly said that police suspect that this explains why the child's medium brown hair had been roughly cropped to within a quarter inch of his scalp.

Investigators were led to that belief, Kelly disclosed, when they found pieces of clipped hair from the boy's own head all over his unclothed body.


Alive or Dead?


Kelly said that while this indicates that the boy was nude when his hair was cut, it is impossible to tell whether he was alive or dead at the time. If the boy was alive, however, the haircut certainly was given within a short time of his death, Kelly added.

From the time the body was found, investigators were struck by the way the boy's hair looked. They noted that the haircut was so crude that there was no doubt it was the work of an amateur.

Kelly said there were too many of the small cut hairs found on the body for them to have fallen down inside the boy's clothing. He said it also was apparent that the boy was naked when his hair was cut because the particles of hair otherwise would not have been found distributed all over the body.


Hair Not Curly


He said that the boy's hair did not appear to have been curly. But, he said the murderer may have cut it because the boy may have worn his hair unusually long - so long, perhaps, that it attracted notice.

"We suspect that the hair was cut to conceal the identity," Kelly said.

The Chief Inspector in charge of detectives renewed his plea to the public to come to police with any suspicions they may have about who the dead boy may have been.

He said it was important to the investigation that anyone aware of the disappearance of any child, having knowledge of any child being abused, or having noticed the absence of a child, immediately contact police.


Need Help of Public


"We are running everything out," Kelly said, "But we need help from the public."

"We definitely feel this," Kelly continued, "that if the boy was from this area -and we're of that opinion - then certainly some number of persons must know who he is and can identify him."

Earlier, police disclosed that the carton in which the boy's body was found had originally contained a baby's bassinet.

Captain David H. Roberts, head of the homicide squad, said that the bassinet was one of a dozen that had been received at a 69th St. store last November 27.

Roberts said the bassinet, which retailed for $7.50, presumably was sold before Christmas by J.C. Penney Co., 100 S. 69th St., with the customer taking it away in its original carton.

He said it is entirely possible that the purchaser of the bassinet had discarded the carton in which the body of the boy was found. He said the cardboard was in good condition, dry inside, but appeared a little weathered.

The inside of the carton had traces of white coloring, indicating the bassinet was painted white.


N.Y. Detectives Here


Two Nassau County, N.Y. detective officers came here today to make sure that the murdered boy was not Steven Craig Damman.

The Damman boy was kidnapped October 31, 1955 from in front of a supermarket at East Meadows, Long Island, at the age of 34 months.

The two out-of-town police officers, James M. Farrell, deputy chief of Nassau County detectives, and Detective Sergeant John Cummings, said they were satisfied after viewing the body and conferring with Philadelphia investigators that the murdered boy was not the missing Damman child.

The possibility had already been pretty well ruled out by a comparison of footprints of the dead boy with footprints taken of the Damman boy at birth and by a medical check of the body against certain known physical characteristics of the missing child.

Farrell said here that various marks such as a large freckle on the back of the right calf of the Damman boy did not exist on the body of the murdered boy. He said also that X-ray examination failed to show the murdered boy had suffered a broken arm, as had the Damman boy.

Captain Roberts said the police search for any missing child from a foster home or institution also has proved fruitless.

City Welfare Commissioner Randolph E. Wise, who has been aiding police in this phase of the search, said that all children in foster homes here now have been accounted for. He said he also believes that the possibility of the boy having been in some institution here has been eliminated.

02/28/57 Philadelphia Inquirer

Who Is This Boy?

Reconstructed photograph of dead boy.

Here is the police description of boy found murdered Tuesday off Susquehanna rd. west of Verree rd., Fox Chase:

Age: 4 to 6 years.

Height: 41 inches.

Weight: 40 pounds

Eyes: Blue

Hair: Blond.

Identifying Marks: Tiny L-shaped scar on chin; 1 1/2 - inch scar on left side of chest; round, irregular scar on left elbow; large mole on right arm in line with little finger; two small moles on right side of chest; three small moles on left side of face.

Anyone with information that could lead to identification of this boy should call the City Desk of The Inquirer, RI 6-1600, or Police Homicide Division, MU 6-9700.

2/28/57-Philadelphia Bulletin

Bassinet Box Clue in Murder Of Mystery Boy

 Police Try to Trace 69th St. Buyer of Carton That Hid Body


Police pressed their efforts today to identify the murdered young boy whose nude, bruised body was found in a cardboard carton in a trash-strewn field in Fox Chase on Tuesday.

At the same time, they disclosed that the carton in which the body had been placed originally had contained a baby's bassinet.

Captain David H. Roberts, head of the homicide squad, said that the bassinet was one of a dozen that had been received at a 69th St. store last November 27.

Roberts said the bassinet, which retailed for $7.50, presumably was sold before Christmas by J.C. Penney Co., 100 S. 69th St., with the customer taking it away in its original carton.


Weathered Cardboard


He said it is entirely possible that the purchaser of the bassinet had discarded the carton in which the body of the boy was found. He said the cardboard was in good condition, dry inside, but appeared a little weathered.

An autopsy performed by Dr. Joseph W. Spelman, city medical examiner, disclosed that the boy had been beaten and that death was due to head injuries. Dr. Spelman placed the boy's age at between four and five. He said he had been dead at least two or three days and possibly as long as two or three weeks.

Roberts said he is amazed that the widespread publicity given the case and the description of the young victim have produced so little in the way of possible leads from the public.

He said it makes him almost believe that the boy was from outside the city or the state.


Others Eliminated


But he said police teletype messages sent all over the country also had produced very few leads. He said he had checked out missing boys as far away as Rhode Island and Indiana but quickly was able to eliminate them as the victim.

Roberts said that until another identification is established, he is leaving up to Stuyvesant A. Pinnell, chief of detectives of Nassau County, N.Y., final determination of whether the murdered boy could have been Steven Craig Damman.

The Damman boy was kidnapped October 31, 1955, from in front of a supermarket at East Meadow, Long Island, at the age of 34 months. His father, Gerald, was then stationed at the nearby Mitchel Air Force Base.

Since the murdered boy appeared to be about the age the Damman boy would have been if he were still alive, and because of some similarities of description, investigators here yesterday sent Pinnell copies of footprints of the murdered boy.


X-Rayed at PGH

They also X-rayed his body at Philadelphia General Hospital in a search for certain physical characteristics known to be possessed by the Damman boy when he disappeared.

Comparison of the dead boy's footprints with those of the missing Damman boy taken at his birth and the X-ray findings cast great doubt on whether they were the same person.

The X-rays failed to reveal a healed fracture of the left arm, which the Damman child had. They also indicated the possibility that instead of being between four and five, the murdered boy may have been only from 33 months to slightly over three years old.

However, Captain Roberts said he doubted the murdered boy was that young and was sticking to the theory that he was around five.


Awaits Final Findings


Pinnell said a comparison of the footprints did not indicate any similarity and a picture of the murdered boy's face bore no resemblance to the missing Damman child. However, he said he would wait for final medical findings.

Captain Roberts said the police search for any missing child from a foster home or institution also has proved fruitless.

City Welfare Commissioner Randolph E. Wise, who has been aiding police in this phase of the search, said that all children in foster homes here now have been accounted for. He said he also believes that the possibility of the boy having been in some institution here has been eliminated.


Police Reverse Denial

After denying it most of the day, police officials late yesterday afternoon admitted the truth of a report that a witness had come forward with the story of seeing a woman and a boy about 12 standing by the trunk of an automobile parked on Sunday near the spot where the murdered boy later was found.

02/28/57 Philadelphia Bulletin

Posters Seek Boy's Identity

 10,000 Circulars Mailed in Murder


Police today mailed "Information Wanted" circulars to other police departments in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey in an effort to establish the identity of the boy found murdered in Fox Chase.

More than 10,000 of the posters, bearing pictures of the boy and information relating to the case, were printed yesterday.

They were sent to all police districts in the city last night with instructions that every man on the force should receive one at roll call.

Detectives continued to man the homicide squad office in City Hall on a 24-hour-a-day basis in order to act promptly on any tips which might come in.

Both Chief Inspector John J. Kelly and Captain David H. Roberts, of homicide, have made repeated appeals asking anyone with information, which might lead to identification to call City Hall.


Flurry of Calls


Only six tips were received during the day. A flurry of calls last night brought the total to about 25. All were tracked down by police and apparently all were discarded.

The boy's body was found Tuesday in a cardboard box in a field along Susquehanna road near Verree road. It was nude and wrapped in a blanket, which had been cut in half.

An autopsy revealed that the boy, about four years old, had been dead several days and death was caused by blows on the head.

At first police thought they had a good clue to the boy's identity. A pair of child's shoes was found near the spot where the body was first observed. But the shoes did not fit when detectives tried them on the boy.


Circulars Describe Boy


The circulars being distributed today describe the boy as four to six years old, 41 inches tall, 30 pounds, blue eyes, fair complexion, short blond hair crudely cut apparently prior to death. They point out that there is an L-shaped scar under the chin and "possibility of chronic ailment of the left eye."

They ask all persons to "make a special effort to obtain information concerning boys of this age and description, known to be in custody of persons who would abuse them, also the disappearance or absence of any child answering to this description."

The posters describe the blanket as made of cheap cotton flannel with a plaid design in diamonds and blocks. The colors are green, rust, brown and white and are faded.


Urge Calls at Any Time


 Anyone with information, the circulars state, should notify homicide unit, detective headquarters, Room 117, City Hall, "immediately, at any time, day or night, by telephone or in person." The number is MUnicipal 6-9700.

They are signed by Police Commissioner Thomas J. Gibbons.

Inspector Kelly said the circulars will be posted in all playgrounds and other places in the city where children congregate and in all orphanages and institutions.

He said the distribution area will be widened as more posters are printed.