SAMPLE THEORIES AND OPINIONS POSTED ON
On the evening of Saturday, October 3, 1998, the "Boy In The Box" story was aired on the America's Most Wanted television show. A temporary public forum was established on their web site (www.amw.com) where viewers could exchange their thoughts and ideas about what they had seen on the program. It generated scores of new "leads", questions, personal opinions, and intriguing theories. AMW's Boy in the Box forum proved to be so popular that it was extended for two additional weeks.
Following is a sampling of excerpts from the AMW forum posts. They represent only a tiny fraction of the information that was exchanged about the Boy In The Box case. These excerpts have been grouped by topic and all identifying info. (e.g., name & location of the submitter) has been deleted.
How accessible was the discovery site?:
> Finding Susquehanna Road, even with a map, requires some effort. It doesn't strike me as the kind of place that an outsider would know about or find purely by chance while passing through the area.
> I doubt that he was killed by someone who was just passing through. There were many other suitable places to dump a body that were much more convenient to reach from the highways.
> There is a large public park (Pennypack Park) immediately north of the site. Verree Road, which intersects with Susquehanna Road just 100 yards or so east of where the body was found, passes right through the park.
> I'm almost certain that the person who left the body there had to be familiar with the local area. An outsider would be unlikely to find this remote spot by accident.
> In my opinion, an outsider could not have just happened upon this place by chance. It's just too out of the way. I am convinced that the person(s) who left the body had to know the area quite well.
Could the boy have had electric shock therapy?:
> In photos, or some of those old movies I've seen where patients were strapped down in preparation for shock therapy, they had their heads held down with straps. It seems possible that head bruises could have come from that, but he also had bruises all over his body.
> They would not have done shock therapy on someone that young. There was no accurate way to modulate the current, and for a child it was the thin line that ran between therapy and the electric chair.
Could the boy have had hemophilia?:
> I wonder if the boy had a blood clotting disorder, i.e. hemophilia to account for his multiple bruises. He may have had some arterial line in his femoral artery, they said for transfusions. BINGO! If he were a hemophiliac he would need blood transfusions, and often at that.
> DNA would tell if he had the hemophilia gene. Using this same theory, if the little boy had this disease he would be fragile, and unable to play outside with the kids, hence, his paleness. There's muscle atrophy (shrinking) from inability to move joints, due to pain. Could this account for him looking thin, or malnourished?
> Hemophilia would be readily traceable via DNA if they ran a test on his tissue matter. This is one of the easier genetic disorders to find and could be proven readily.
> Well, I've thrown out my hemophilia theory as a possibility, because I now know his scars were due to the hernia operation, even though they are still puzzled by his ankle scar.
Could the boy have come from a state hospital, orphanage, or other public institution?:
> Something tells me that the boy came from a children's home. I've heard stories where children were mistreated in those homes The food probably was scarce; also, if the boy came up missing, no family, friends, or even the other children would think it peculiar that he was gone.
> Maybe the parents couldn't cope with all of this child's medical problems and committed him to a state hospital, where he was given both transfusions and shock therapy, but ultimately died.
> The little boy might have come from one of the mammoth state hospitals (these are generally mental institutions or specialized medical centers that take care of indigent people with incurable diseases or medical conditions.) These state hospitals are really huge, housing literally hundreds of patients, and it would be easy to get lost in that bureaucratic morass.
> I believe that an orderly or medical technician (perhaps more than one) could have accidentally (or deliberately) killed the child, freaked out, and in this state of panic and fearful of being discovered, taken the body to a secluded spot a few miles away, intending to bury it. Upon discovering that the ground was frozen too solid to permit excavation of a grave, he (or they) could have placed the body in a discarded bassinet box that was lying nearby.
> Blood transfusions and shock treatments are not do-it-yourself projects, as far as I know. They must have been performed in a medical facility of some kind - not at home. Maybe they went too far with the shock treatments and accidentally killed him that way!
> One clue that made me think family involvement WAS that bassinet box. Mental institutions would not use one. Most children's homes would not either. This is mostly a family related item.
> The children's home aspect makes no sense. The two children's homes in the area would have reported it if some child was missing or had disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
Could the boy have been a member of the foster family that lived near the discovery site?:
> I have always felt a strong suspicion towards that family because of their lack of cooperation. In the back of my mind I've wondered about the stepdaughter's children. Several stillborns, and one death by electrocution. This may be a wild tangent, but having so many stillborns do you think she could have managed to have a child who lived, but had severe medical or genetic problems?
> It seems bizarre to me that the step-father married the step-daughter after his wife died. And after they verified her still born children and the child that died in the electrocution accident, I would think that doing DNA just to rule her out would be a good idea.
> The fact that the step-father married the step-daughter tells me a lot about his lack of respect for his wife, step-daughter, and himself. Morals were far stricter back then.
> I have been stuck on the fact that the foster father married his step-daughter after his wife's death. What if even one of her previous children actually belonged to her step-father? There was no mention of the step-daughter being married. That would be a pretty good reason for the secret. Especially if there was something wrong with the boy, like autism. That would be a pretty good motive for abuse.
> Foster kids are put into homes for a variety of reasons and lengths of time. I have been thinking also about the 20 yr old step-daughter and the foster father. If she had been with them for sometime he may have been molesting her. Then she became pregnant. Maybe the girl refused to name the baby's father because the foster father had threatened her. So the foster mother may or may not have known her husband was the father.
> I think the detective who leaned strongly to the foster family probably didn't just pull them out of a hat. He must have had some circumstantial evidence at the least.
> Until, I hear hard evidence to remove suspicion from the foster family, I remain convinced that a lot of the answers in this case rest with them. Here are some of my reasons for thinking this; The proximity of the foster home in relation to where the body was found; a foster home can be an ideal place to harbor a child from the public; the blanket halves found on their premises, and also the half found on the dead boy's body; their unwillingness to cooperate with authorities; the coloring and build of the stepdaughter/ "niece": the possibility of the boy being retarded, and the step-daughter being described as "retarded"; the lack of medical records, and also, the lack of a physician coming forward to say he had treated the boy at any time. These things make sense in regard to the physician, who treated those foster kids, dying and his wife destroying all of his records. Also, the dysfunctional setting in the foster home; step-father MARRYING his step-daughter. It certainly fits in with the scenario we have envisioned in this household. Namely, a violent and/or controlling father figure. If, indeed, this foster father was a drunk, and had a rotten temper it is a more than wonderful precursor to abuse. Oh, another thing, the bassinet found in their basement, which Bristow noted, was the same kind as J.C. Penney had sold.
> I know deep in my heart that the foster family had everything to do with this little boy! Just like OJ Simpson, there are too many arrows pointing at them! I think the step father was a child molester, and every time the step-daughter got pregnant, starting when she was 10, he was the man! She told the police she had "3" still-births in the late 40's. If she kept getting pregnant........wouldn't the parents have done something about a promiscuous girl? Or was it all covered up because they were afraid of him- a mean drunken man who probably still is a tyrant. Did the police save the bassinet box as evidence? It could have even held the boy's bassinet.
Why didn't friends or neighbors report the little boy missing?:
> Probably the child stayed inside his home all day and night. Chances are he never went to school, and was abused, and one day died. Chances are he never even wore clothes at home.
> With the other foster children in the house it seems reasonable that they could have "hidden" the boy's existence from others. It would be pretty convenient to say that he was a foster child if he was seen by an outside person.
> I think if some one really wants to hide something they can do it. If the boy was the child of the step-daughter and the step-father, that would give them even more reason to keep him somewhat hidden.
> I believe that he was raised as a little girl. Tiny, and probably very quiet - as most abused children are, he could've easily passed as a 2 to 3 year old girl. That would explain the haircut, as well as no one recognizing him. (The police are looking to ID a boy who could be as old as six, your neighbor has a cute, shy little girl who, you're told, is three. Why would ANYONE suspect?
> As far as keeping him a secret, all the foster parents would have to say is that they got a newborn foster child. The step-daughter would have probably been hidden for the term, and probably didn't get prenatal care. The child could have been born at home, and who would know? If the foster father and step-daughter are now married, they can not be forced to testify against each other.
> There was probably much "shame" associated with this little boy. My point is that "secrecy" was the name of the game where he was concerned. So, if he was, say, the illegitimate child of a "mentally disturbed woman", you bet they were going to keep his birth a secret. Or, if he was conceived as a result of 'sexual abuse' from father to stepdaughter, major secret.
> There were a lot of people who moved around during that time looking for work or better jobs. There is the possibility that these parents (and I use the term loosely), were traveling with him. and he died on them due to medical conditions and abuse. Not knowing what to do, they discarded him and left.
> Although the foster parents may have been able to conceal the existence of a child from outsiders, I doubt that such a "secret" could be kept from other children who lived in the same household.
> I think that people around that family probably did think he was one of the foster kids and was just sent back home or was adopted. Maybe no one really knew how many kids were living there other than the social service people who placed the kids.
> This little boy was probably from a poor family, and an abusive one at that. They might have been so poor that they never stayed in one place for very long. They may have even lived in their car.
> He was a child that no one knew existed outside of the family proper. From all indications, I think this child WAS sequestered at home and rarely if ever, got out of doors.
Could the boy have come from a military family?:
> I believe there could be a military nexus to the case, and have suggested that the former Willow Grove Naval Air Base and other nearby military facilities be checked to see if their hospital records exist, and show that they treated / transfused any children of the same age.
> The military angle is a good one to explore but, having served in the military, I know first-hand that military communities are not much different than their civilian counterparts. Everyone keeps pretty close tabs on their neighbors. If a child were to mysteriously disappear, it would not go unnoticed by other families living on the base. The only exceptions to this would be if the perpetrator was "in transit", on temporary short-term duty (TDY), or was being discharged from active duty.
> I live on a military base, and believe me, these people are very nosy. So, if a child was to be in harm, someone would notice.
> I live in a military community, and believe me, if the family was living off base and kept to themselves, or were indeed in transit, no one would have noticed much about them.
Could the boy have come from a traveling carnival or circus?:
> At that time there were always circus shows, carnivals, etc. moving around, not like it is today. I wonder if the police in the area ever looked at the possibility that it was a transient group like this who had a young member die and, instead of staying around the area for burial, dumped the boy.
> I think that too many people involved with the circus would have noticed this child's departure with no explanation.
> This child was found late in February when the weather is unduly cold and severe. No one goes to a carnival in cold, freezing weather. Jan., Feb. And Mar. are dead months as far as any festival/carnival/circus activity goes.
Where did the box come from, and how long was it at the site before being discovered?:
> If the killer had found that box there it would have degraded due to the exposure to the elements. Have you ever seen a box left out in the rain and snow, heat and cold? It would be in far worse condition than the one this child was in, leading me to believe that the killer probably got it from home.
> Yes, a box definitely would have been destroyed by the weather (in February especially). The possibility of "finding" a JC Penney bassinet box would be next to impossible ((by happenstance). They (or he/she) took the box with them (him/her) to leave the body in (which would tie in with the "remorse" or compassion displayed by the blanket).
> That box was relatively new, unsullied, and in my estimation, due to the overall condition of that box, the child had been out there closer to three days than three weeks.
> The condition of the box was too pristine. It couldn't have been there very long. It is more likely that the killer brought the box directly from home, which does, indeed, suggest that there was another child in the family.
> As for the box deteriorating, I live in a climate a lot like Pa., and you too have probably seen an open dumping area where a cardboard box gets a lot of weather year round and it is still a box. They do get wet but they dry out again. Eventually they get pretty dried out but keep their shape. If that box had been thrown there a month before or longer, it would still be a box. They didn't say what condition the box was in. And if there had not been much moisture it would still have probably remained as it was when thrown there.
> I think they took him in the back seat of a car wrapped in the blanket. And the box just happened to be there.
> If the box had been exposed to the rain on Saturday, February 23rd. it would definitely have shown signs of water damage. Therefore, I believe that it must have been placed there no earlier than Saturday night.
Where did the blanket come from?:
> I recall reading that the boy was wrapped in a blanket that had been cut in half, and that the officer investigating the case saw blanket halves on the foster family's clothes line.
> Cutting blankets in half wasn't a common thing in my neighborhood, but I grew up in a middle class community where people could afford to purchase as many blankets as they needed. I don't know why you would cut a blanket in half, except to economize.
> Certainly, the fact that those half-blankets were hanging on the line at the foster home makes me very suspicious. I wonder if the police ever tried to match-up those half-blankets with the one found with the dead boy.
> I've been thinking about the blanket, too! It may not have been cut to make two blankets for use on beds. When we were kids, my mom gave us the old bed blankets when she got new ones. We used them to make tents and to wrap baby dolls up in. They sometimes got torn or cut to fit whatever they were to be used for.
> I assume that the blanket is still being retained as evidence. If so, it should be re-tested. There are more sophisticated testing procedures available today that could reveal microscopic fibers, body fluids, hairs, etc. that wouldn't have been detectable back then.
What could have caused the "cut down" scars on the boy's groin, leg, and ankle?:
> For the record, the "cut down" scars on the boy were at the right inguinal & femoral triangles. There were also similar scars on the right ankle.
> There are several medical procedures that could have been done on the boy to leave scarring at the groin. Heart catheters are inserted into the artery and guided to the heart to check for heart defects. If they were used for blood transfusions, it could have been due to Rh factor incompatibility. That's where a baby is born and has Rh+ blood, and the mother has Rh- blood. This causes something called erythroblastosis, which is a type of hemolytic anemia. Up until around 1962, babies with this condition either died or where given a transfusion of Rh+ blood.
> The scars---the groin area scars to me are highly indicative of the hernia surgeries they did on kids back in the '50's.
> "Cut downs" are incisions that are made to gain direct access to a large blood vessel that can't be reached through the skin. The inquinal scar probably indicates that the boy had a pediatric hernia. The femoral incision was most likely for a blood transfusion, or for the gradual infusion of fluids into the soft tissues of the leg (a procedure that was common in the 1950's, but is no longer done). These procedures may not have been performed in a hospital. They could have been performed privately by someone who had the requisite medical knowledge (not necessarily a licensed physician).
> It might be possible to determine if the incisions had been sutured by a qualified surgeon or by an amateur. A surgeon is trained to stitch the incision in such a way as to minimize scarring. An amateur would probably employ a coarser, less-sophisticated stitching pattern that leaves a more prominent, jagged scar. A competent ME should have looked for, and noted this.
> Yes, what if the boy's caretakers (perhaps in an attempt to keep his existence secret) tried to perform these medical procedures at home, and botched it up? They may have actually been trying to save his life! The wounds (incisions) seem to have healed, which indicates that the boy survived the "surgery" for some period of time (weeks / months) before expiring.
> Surgeries, like those, run the high risk of infection, and hemorrhage, so I somehow doubt they would have been done at home.
> It is possible that the child's real name was not given at the hospital for fear of other things becoming exposed. Remember, hospital insurance was not what it is today. Most likely, the family might have considered using cash and paying for it under an assumed name.
Was the boy killed intentionally?:
> While it's true that multiple blunt force blows would seem to be deliberate murder, someone in a blind rage could have administered those blows in just a few seconds (i.e. temporary insanity). It may not have been premeditated (first degree) murder.
> The issue isn't whether the blows were accidental - but whether the outcome was intended. In other words, the person who dealt the blows may not have intended them to be fatal.
> Multiple blows to the head on a small child are probably always fatal, whether or not it was meant to be fatal or cause injury to the boy. He/she must have been really nuts themselves to think otherwise - that it wouldn't cause permanent damage or even death.
> My father was a very violent man who beat his children almost on a daily basis. These blows were usually to the head. (Open handed - not clenched fists). He certainly didn't intend to kill his children, just punish them for "infractions" of the rules.
> I think in my heart of hearts, the person who killed the boy did NOT intend to kill him. It is so easy to lose control when a dysfunctional family dynamic is present...esp where you have a "might makes right" situation, or an explosive arrangement.
> I think the parents killed the little boy out of frustration. He was very sick and needed a lot of medical attention, which his parents probably could not afford. So, they did what they thought was "best" for the boy, and stopped his suffering.
> If he did have at least have one caring person in his life, they may have not been there to stop the rage the person had on him. Mothers have a special bond with their kids that no father could ever have. That's why I think it was the father or someone other than the mother who killed him. But then again some very sick mothers have killed too!!
> This child could have accidentally drowned or hit his head on a fixture in the tub...but the autopsy showing blunt force trauma indicates the likelihood it was something larger. I do believe his death was NOT intentional. Either someone lost control, was neglectful or stupid in the care of this child; but not likely that it was premeditated murder.
> The boy had over 20 bruises on his tiny body ... and blunt force wounds to his head! This was no accident.
> It is my opinion that this child was intentionally murdered.
> I think it was a case of parental abuse carried too far. The father probably killed the boy and the family decided they would have to move. I think the mother cleaned the boy and wrapped him, and placed him where he would be found.
How could exhumation of the remains for DNA sampling help solve the case?:
> The DNA results would give a little more insight as to possible medical conditions that the boy may have had, such as possible medication or drugs that may have been in the child.
> DNA may be good, but unless you have something to check it against, it won't determine who your parents are. Maybe if they ever catch the killer it would be helpful.
> As for the DNA, it can be extracted from saliva, blood, semen, bone, vitreous humorous (eye) male or female. There is a particular bit of DNA called the mitochondria DNA. It exists in a little organelle( a little packet) outside the nucleus of a cell. This DNA is only passed to you from your mother, it is only passed on in the egg not the sperm. Maternal lineage can be traced.
> DNA mapping would not be immediately useful, but could be used to confirm a relationship, if and when a suspect is arrested.