Topic: The Foster Family

E-mail Messages and Responses:

It is my opinion that the foster family living near the discovery site should have been investigated more extensively. Remington Bristow had to have a reason to go to his grave believing that he had solved the mystery. From what I've learned so far from this website, he believed the foster family was involved. To me the evidence, whether circumstantial or not, was overwhelming. Is the daughter and stepfather/husband still alive today? Can they be investigated further at this time? I have a strong feeling that the answer as to who "America's Unknown Child" is and why he was killed, lies with them.

As a member of the Vidocq Society team currently pursuing the investigation of the "Boy in the Box" case, your inquiry was referred to me for reply.

Yes, it is true that Remington Bristow had a firm belief that the solution to the mystery centered around the foster home that existed at the time near the crime scene, but it was only that - a belief - and nothing more. The various theories and conclusions put forward by Remington Bristow may seem "compelling" on the surface, but they were based solely upon circumstantial evidence and speculation. Although some of what he was told by the psychic he consulted seemed to tie in nicely with what he found at the foster home, there was never anything of a specific nature to unquestionably tie the operators of that foster home to the case.

The foster father and his first wife are both deceased. The stepdaughter/second wife is still living. All of them were thoroughly investigated and cleared of any involvement in this crime. No further investigation of the foster family is warranted.

Investigators have wrestled with this case for the past 43 years, desperately seeking a solution, but it has always eluded them. Countless leads have developed and all have been thoroughly checked out in every instance. Be assured that every theory and scenario, not unlike your own, has been explored to the fullest extent many times over. However, having said that, we remain committed to the task of discovering this boy's true identity and ultimately solving this case.


The foster family looks like really good candidates. Could anyone else have known about them cutting blankets in half to cover cots? Isn't it possible someone knew about that and did the same thing to divert suspicion from themselves and onto the foster family?

The foster home folks were thoroughly investigated, and finally considered to have borne no involvement in the unknown boy's death. The specific details of that phase of the investigation are classified, but rest assured that authorities went down that path and removed them from any suspicion. As for your questions regarding a possible "frame-up" involving the cut blankets, no evidence or testimony has ever come to light to support that notion. Certainly, anything is theoretically possible, but we must respectfully decline comment on such speculative matters.


Has the "foster family father" been compared with the woman artist's rendering of a man she saw on a Philadelphia bus shortly before the unknown boy's body was discovered in Fox Chase? Is there any other information available about the "foster family"?

The foster father did not resemble the woman artist's sketch of the man on the bus, nor did he resemble the bust produced by Frank Bender. Contrary to popular belief stemming from unfounded theories advanced by Remington Bristow, no member of the foster family has ever been suspected of being involved in this crime by the official investigators. There is no information available about the foster family other than the material presented on our web site.


Based on information provided on your site, I feel the investigator who was led to the stone house with the cabin and the pond may have been at the crime scene. The bassinet and the blanket that matched the evidence on hand lead me to believe that. Although the information was provided by a psychic, it appears to be at least worth examining.

Your comments about the foster family appear to be based upon some incorrect assumptions. Nothing that was found at the foster home exactly matched the evidence on hand or linked that family to either the crime scene or the unknown boy. As for the psychic, most of the "information" that she provided to Remington Bristow was found to have no factual basis. The "predictions" that Bristow later cited to the press were selectively culled from his extensive interview notes and tape recordings. Only those "predictions" which seemed to fit his subsequent findings were quoted.


There must be a way to locate the former occupants of the stone house -- no reason was given for the last name of the foster family never being disclosed to the public. Was it a relative of a Society Hill family? I'm sure there must be a way to locate the foster family.

The members of the foster family have been thoroughly investigated by several law enforcement agencies and they are not considered to be suspects in this case. This phase of the investigation is officially closed, and there are no plans to re-open it. Releasing personal information about the members of the foster family to the general public would serve no useful purpose. They are entitled to their privacy.


After reading the case summary, I think I may have put together what happened. I read that the foster family had moved and the detective went up afterwards and saw the unaccounted for bassinet and half blankets that had been cut and sewed on a home machine. I think the foster family was responsible for his death. And I think this is how they did it:

I think the child's parents were the foster father and the stepdaughter. I think she birthed him at home and due to unaccounted paper work in those days, he simply slipped through the cracks unnoticed. I think the foster mother got him medical attention for the operations by taking him in to get care under another child's name that was in her foster care. This would explain why there are no records of these operations for one particular child. But if you look at all the records of the children in her care during the 1950's, you may be able to find the same operations or conditions in other children's records. She may have had him treated under the state system. Maybe she used John Doe to get this operation and Jimmy Smith for another. That would explain no paper trail. And in those days thousands of kids were born at home. Again no paper trail. What did the Foster father look like? What did the stepdaughter look like? Could the stepfather have married the stepdaughter to keep her quiet? Would this explain her previous pregnancies?

Thank you for expressing your thoughts about the foster family. The scenario that you present has been thoroughly investigated and found to be without foundation. We decline to offer an opinion about the stepfather's motivation for marrying his stepdaughter. Frankly, we don't know his motivation, nor do we know if it had any connection with the woman's previous pregnancies.


I just happened to stumble upon your site. Unfortunately there is nothing I can prove, but just by reading the evidence of the case it seems pretty clear who the perpetrators were. Working with the court system, I've seen a lot of murder cases. I found one string that links them all. Being consummate professionals such as you are, I'm sure you've seen it also. None of them are very complex, but this case rules out everyone EXCEPT the foster family. (Again I'm sure this is not an original observation)

1. The Box - Bassinet from JC Penny's. 12 sold, all found but one, one found several years later at the foster household. Was it LIKE the others or was it the same brand and model? When were they no longer sold? Do the records still exist (doubtful)? Did anyone who works at the store recognize the mother, father, stepdaughter, children that were living in the home? Are the foster children still around to be contacted?

2. Location - In the dead of night carrying a thirty pound body and a box would not be much of a task for anyone, drunk or sober, across a field. How about the moon? Was it full? If not, they undoubtedly lucked out for a time to move him. If they both moved him, all the easier. Judging by the responses in the theories and opinions section, this is, or was at the time a somewhat secluded spot. And a stranger is pretty much ruled out in any event, considering where the box originated.

3. The Blanket - If you had a bunch of foster kids, and needed a bunch of blankets, would you buy a bunch that were the same, or would you buy ones that were different? If even one found years later matched the pattern....... Also strange how the blankets in the house were cut in two like the one found around the boy. What about the cut? Was it cut with a knife or scissors? At that time, it might have been impossible to determine, but depending on the state of the evidence, it may be able to be done now. This is significant, because perhaps if whatever cut it was sold at the foster home property auction, the item could be tracked down to match. Which would put you in the house, and give you the first piece of real non-circumstantial evidence.

4. - The Body - I believe you have the DNA results from the boy. If you still have the blanket, (washing in those days wasn't nearly as efficient as it is today), maybe some forensics should be done on it. If the house is still standing, even after so many years, it isn't entirely outside the realm of possibility that there may be fibers, hair, fingernail clippings, etc. still in the house. Of course, if the carpets have been changed since the NEW owners moved in, or the house completely remodeled, the chances of finding anything are pretty much nil. At some point you have to go before a judge with probable cause for a search warrant for blood, hair, or tissue samples from the foster father and stepdaughter.

5 - Motive - Though in recent years, this is not nearly as important, then I think it was. Especially once you rule out a transient. Which I think is clearly the case, based on what the boy was found in, and where he was found. Who else would do it other than the foster father? And since the girl was at least "mentally challenged" and no doubt abused, there is no way she would challenge the foster father. The marriage thing is just a bizarre twist that adds fuel to the fire. What better way to cover your crime than to marry the mother of the child you killed? He's got her on a leash for the rest of his life. I think you can rule out any other suspects locally, unless there is another family that has (had) some mentally handicapped or abused person in the house who wouldn't speak up.

Thank you for writing to the America's Unknown Child web site. As a member of the team that is currently investigating the Boy in the Box case, your message was referred to me. Please bear in mind that this is still an active homicide investigation. Your questions and theories touch upon an area of the investigation that is, to a large extent, strictly confidential. Although we know the answers to your questions about the evidence and members of the foster family, we must withhold specific comment on the matter for two principal reasons. First, we do not want to risk compromising the current investigation in any way, and second, it would violate the privacy rights of ordinary citizens who have never been indicted for committing a crime.


I have some questions concerning the foster family.

1. How did the Wife die? Is it possible she was murdered? Any chance of exhuming her body to test for poisoning?

2. The stepdaughter had one child that had died by electrocution. Is it possible the "boy in a box" was murdered in the bathtub, possibly electrocuted? Would electrocution lead to burnt hair or deviations in skin tone (wrinkled skin), blackened nails? If the boy's hair was singed it would be a reason to crop it short.

3. Was the stepdaughter pregnant around the time the boy in the box was found or are there any records of live births or miscarriages within 6 months of the boy in the box being found?

4. Did anyone search the foster family's property for evidence or buried clothing/items? Perhaps a metal detector might turn something up if anything was buried.

You've asked some very interesting questions but, unfortunately, most of the information you seek is classified. This is still an active homicide case and strict rules of secrecy apply to most aspects of the investigation. We can tell you that the wife was NOT murdered and the unknown boy did not die by electrocution. Beyond that, all we can say is that the foster family was investigated and cleared of any involvement in this case.


I've read just about all of the web site on the unknown boy, and was wondering if the foster family was ever questioned again. Were any of the children that lived in the house questioned? Is there any way to get the records from the state showing who lived there during the time?

Everyone who lived at the foster home in 1957 was accounted for and questioned extensively. None of them had any knowledge about the identity or death of the unknown boy. That phase of the investigation is officially closed.


I think that the boy was indeed staying with the foster family. I am not sure if he was born into the family or was just being fostered. Since the younger lady was "retarded" then if the boy in the box was hers, he was retarded too. Maybe if he was retarded he didn't follow the rules so he was beaten and abused. It sounds to me like the step-father was pretty demented so he got carried away while beating him, and killed him. He dumped him in the woods near his house. You guys are probably thinking this makes no sense because wouldn't the boys mother or the other children notice his disappearance. Well, the children were told that the boy was a foster kid. He would tell them this to hide his identity if the child was a result of sexual abuse. He would tell the step-daughter to keep her mouth shut or he would kill her too.

The theories you advance have been pursued many times over the years, and we have satisfactorily eliminated the folks from the foster home from any complicity in this tragic case. Having said that, however, we remain no closer to learning this boy's identity. It has been a most frustrating and complex case, to be sure. Of one thing we are certain! While the fact that the boy's nails were neatly clipped might suggest that he was lovingly cared for, his death was nevertheless the result of someone brutally mistreating him often over the short span of his young life. There is no statute of limitations for homicide, so this remains an open case and we continue to run down all leads in our efforts to successfully solve the case and ultimately inscribe his true name on his grave marker.


It's obvious to me that the foster family is guilty of committing the brutal murder of this boy. After reading the newspaper reports and other articles on your site, there is no doubt in my mind. The evidence against them is overwhelming. They should have been indicted, brought to trial, and convicted of child homicide. Instead, the Philadelphia police department never even revealed the names of the foster family suspects, and mysteriously dropped its investigation of the foster family without giving a satisfactory explanation for doing so. If the true name of the family could not, (or simply would not), be identified, then something is terribly wrong with the way this investigation was conducted. I suspect that some Philadelphia police department officials may have been paid off to discontinue the investigation of the foster family. Everyone knows that police corruption goes on all the time, and it was probably even more common way back when. Has the Philadelphia police department ever been investigated for corruption in connection with this case?

Your assumptions of "obvious guilt" on the part of the foster family, and your suspicions of corruption within the Philadelphia police department are totally groundless. Putting forth such serious allegations without one iota of proof to support them is irresponsible.


I wonder if anyone has taken into consideration that the Boy in the Box may have been a victim of being held "prisoner." Out here in California this week, there was a big news story about the trial of a woman and her father who had been keeping the woman's 6 year old daughter a prisoner in her home. The little girl was six years old (roughly the age the boy in the box is believed to have been), weighed only 32 pounds (the weight of the boy in the box), and had multiple severe bruises all over her body (as the boy in the box did.)

I believe that it may be possible that the Foster Family lead in the case may be linked to the Boy in the Box, and perhaps it is them who were holding the child "prisoner." For what reason, I do not know. The fact that it is suspected the child may have been retarded may come in to play there. Perhaps the boy was in fact the illegitimate son of the mentally challenged young woman who resided at the residence, and his case of abuse and torture was so severe that it resulted in his death. The family, fearing the inevitable charges of child endangerment, neglect, and manslaughter, disposed of the body in the gruesome manner that it was. Where exactly the pond in the backyard of the home comes into play, I am unsure. Perhaps it was somehow used in the abuse of the child, or maybe even the attempted disposal of his body.

While we cannot dismiss your intriguing theory that the unknown boy may have been "held prisoner" by someone, we can safely rule out the possibility that members of the foster family were involved in such a scenario. They were subjected to one of the most exhaustive homicide investigations in Philadelphia history. No stone was left unturned and dozens of theories, including the one that you have put forward, were thoroughly explored.


I was watching the story last night on "48 Hours" about the unsolved murder of a boy found in a box back in 1957. Towards the end of the piece something was said about a foster home for kids in the area where the boy was found and a picture of the house was shown. I recognized the house. I remember something about having to drive on Pine road to get there. I went through old photos I have, and sure enough, I have pictures of that house my Mom took.

I was one of the kids who spent summers at that estate from 1956 through 1959. [The foster kids lived there all year.] In fact, there was some old piece of film shown in the story [old 16 millimeter?] of boys being awakened in their bunks, and my heart stopped!!! I was one of those boys shown. I don't remember if they ruled out that the murdered boy might have lived at the home, but I can remember many of the kids and their names from back then.

Anyway, there were a number of home movies shot at that home back then by the owner. Camping, marshmallow roasts at night, different fun activities that all us kids were involved in. [I was even filmed dukeing it out with these huge boxing gloves against another 9 year old who was mad at me for something]. My point here is that there is a lot more film of the kids that was taken the summers I was there, and I can at least give names to many of the faces. Some of those kids [adults in their 50's now] may remember others who were there also. Maybe they can be tracked down. A stretch, but who knows?

The owners of that foster home were Arthur and Kathy Nicoletti. There was also a daughter who had a son that had died. His name was Donnie, and I think he was electrocuted by one of those "horses" that you rode for 10 cents in arcades. (At least that is what I was told when I lived there.) The daughter was very strange, but not in a harmful way as I remember. The most striking feature about her was that as a young woman her hair was 100% gray; not out of a bottle, but pure gray, so it was hard to pin her age down, at least from a 9-year-old's point of view. The family was very strict, but with all those kids, I guess law/order was necessary.

If this can be of any help feel free to get back to me.

Thank you for writing to the America's Unknown Child web site. Your message has been forwarded to Detective Tom Augustine of the Philadelphia police department and to the Vidocq Society's "Boy in the Box" investigation team. You should be hearing from them shortly.



This case pulled at my heart from the moment I began to read this story. First of all, I believe "M's" [the Ohio informant] account. Only after her parents were both dead could she begin dealing with the horror of the abuse inflicted on her and this child. This revelation would certainly take great courage, and can even cause a major setback in her healing. To be discounted may cause her further emotional setback.

I don't believe that the investigators in this case were very far off in believing that the Nicolettis and Anna Marie Nagle were involved in this horrific crime. But there are certainly some pieces missing.

I am at a disadvantage in developing a theory as I am not privy to all the facts, but I hope to provide ideas that will help identify this poor child and put him to rest with a name. Please keep an open mind and remember the old adage, "birds of a feather flock together."


1. I believe that the boy in the box may have been the son of Arthur Nicoletti and Anna Marie Nagle, one of a set of twin boys from an incestual-type relationship which probably produced all of Anna's babies. The fact that Anna Marie married her stepfather after her mother's death supports that this relationship existed.

2. From the limited information, I'm assuming that at least some of Anna Marie's children were born at the home.

3. I believe that "Johnathan" may have been kept at the Nicoletti home under similar conditions described by "M." Therefore, he would be unknown to the foster children in the home, or anyone else.

4. I believe that "Jonathan" was sold to "M's" mother soon after the death of his twin by electrocution, probably because his care was too much for a grieving Anna Marie. The twins could have either been identical, one with a mental defect that might explain a lack of resemblence; or not identical, and resembled each other somewhat or not at all. If they were twins, their names might begin with the same letter.

5. Similar blankets torn in a similar manner were observed at the foster home. The blanket may have been sent with the child, perhaps to keep him calm if he was attached to it.

6. I believe that when "Jonathan" was killed, "M's" mother returned his body from whence he came, possibly with the help of the Nicolettis under threat of the incest or the sale of the child being exposed. The box being at the "dump" site seems too convenient, and may have been provided by the Nicolettis.

7. The clothing found at the dump site may have been dumped by "M's" mother; getting rid of all trace of the boy from her home, including clothing that the boy grew out of in his two-year stay. It may have also been clothing of either twin disposed of by the Nicolettis.

8. The boy may have initially appeared to be dead, but did not expire until after he had been cleaned up. Was this done to accommodate an upper class person's desire to give him a proper burial?

a. The bruises around his forehead area may have been from holding him by his head to cut the hair while he was unconscious, but still alive. Why the hair was cut, I can't quite put my finger on it.

b. I believe "M's" mother may have sat him in the bathtub with his left arm outside the tub to anchor him in a sitting position while she bathed him, which would explain the lack of wrinkling on his left hand and the bruising on the left arm.

9. "M's" story of the boy's living conditions and the incision-type scars, which may indicate torture, fits the profile of a sexual sadist. I'm not certain of the legitimacy of the report of the boy being kept in a cage, but this would also fit the sadist's profile. The dye in the eye may also have been something used as a form of torture.

10. "M's mother may have intended to bury the body in the box, but was frightened off by the passerby who stopped to inquire if they needed help.

11. The blue cap may have been lined with the paper to size it down to a smaller head than it was meant for:

a. It may have been put on "Jonathan" and fell off in the brush while the body was being carried; or

b. It may have been worn by "M", which would explain why the man who stopped to help might have thought she was a boy. Was there any hair in the cap that could be matched with "M" to confirm her story?

12. The phone call: "Can you tell whether that boy was weak-minded?" she asked. Doctor Krogman asked her name. "Do you know what it is to take care of an idiot?" she answered, the calmness suddenly gone. "Sometimes you get so sick of their crying you can kill them in a fit of anger." Now her voice was loud and angry. "That," she said, "might be your explanation." Abruptly she hung up. She never called again. Was this a grieving Anna Marie, attempting to rationalize the death of her son? Or was this "M's mother, attempting to rationalize a fit of anger that killed a child?

13. The final indication, which I came across after developing this theory, was the recounting of Tom Augustine's meeting with Anna Marie after her marriage to her stepfather. Augustine stated that he asked her if she had a son that died around 1957, and her reply was "yes" but referred to her son that was electrocuted in 1955." Was this a "slip" on her part? Confusing the two?

14. If I am correct in my assumption that Anna Marie's babies were born at the home, I suspect even more horrific events took place there. Three stillborns? Or three murders?

15. Anna Marie may have given birth to another child around 1957, given the new bassinnette purchased and the discarded box. Another stillborn?

16. Given the above scenario, I am concerned that the foster children may have been abused as well. Perhaps some of them could be located and interviewed to establish if there was any sexual abuse going on at that foster home.

Note: The original investigators confirmed that Anna Marie Nagle's deceased son did not have a twin brother.