Just a little over 60 years ago – on February 25, 1957, to be exact – the first chapter in a tragic mystery, that has haunted police investigators and Pennsylvanians for six decades, began. On that cold February day, the lifeless, nude body of a young boy, partially hidden in a cardboard box, was discovered in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia. From that day on, the Boy in the Box also became known as and still remains America’s Unknown Child.
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Susquehanna Road in the Fox Chase section of Philadelphia, devoid of homes, was tranquil in the late 1950s. The road, which stretched only a half of a mile, led to the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, a home for troubled girls. But, the land along Susquehanna Road mostly consisted of open fields and a smattering of trees. Small animals, including muskrats, inhabited the area, which often attracted aspiring hunters. one of whom discovered the young boy in the box.
The 26-year-old who discovered the box thought he'd stumbled on a box with a baby doll but still called the police, who immediately knew they had a murder case on their hands. What they didn't - and couldn't - know then was they had stumbled upon a mystery that would remain unsolved well into the 21st century.
Investigators quickly discovered the box - labeled fragile - originally held a bassinet from J.C. Penney. The bassinet, which had been in a shipment of 12 bassinets, had been sold at the Upper Darby J.C. Penney. Eleven of those who purchased the bassinet came forward. Still the box itself yielded few clues.
The young boy with blonde hair and blue eyes, wrapped in an old flannel blanket (pictured above), appeared very clean with recently trimmed fingernails, toenails, and hair. Investigators noted that he appeared to be severely underweight at only 30 pounds with a height of 40.5 inches, and his fingers appeared wrinkled, as if he'd been immersed in water for an extended period of time.
Bruises, believed to be recent, covered the small boy's body with most of them on his face and head. Fluid in the boy's body led the coroner to believe he had vomited shortly before he passed away. The boy's footprints were taken and compared to all existing prints in area hospitals to no avail.
Unfortunately, because the boy had been left in the cold, investigators had no way of knowing how long he had been dead before he was found.
Detectives searched the area of Susquehanna Road where the young boy had been found and came across what they hoped would be clues to the case and to determining the identify of the boy. In addition to discovering clothing that would fit the young boy, two of the most solid pieces of evidence included the blanket in which the boy was wrapped and a mysterious hat.
The blanket that covered the boy's body was, according to experts, made from inexpensive fabric in either Canada or North Carolina. Tracing the purchaser of the blanket, which had been massed produced, was simply impossible. However, a photo of the blanket was included on the poster that was widely distributed in the hopes that someone would recognize it.
The second piece of evidence that offered some hope was a royal blue cap made of corduroy. The woman who made and sold the hat claimed that one of the men who had purchased it looked similar to the boy in the box. Who that man was, however, was never determined.
Investigators assumed that, with the aid of the public, the young boy's identify would be revealed rather quickly. A composite of the boy's face was sketched and handed out to the media and throughout Philadelphia. He was even dressed in neat black clothing and posed sitting in a chair in the hopes that someone somewhere would recognize the boy, who was believed to be only between four and six years of age, and come forward.
The boy in the box remained unidentified, despite the hard work and dedication of investigators. In 1998, the boy's body was exhumed to extract DNA. The boy's story, which has appeared in the media nationwide, gained national attention with a new generation when America's Most Wanted featured it in the autumn of 1998. The broadcast yielded plenty of phone calls but no concrete new clues.
Investigators have followed up on leads for six decades. All, however, have led to dead ends or simply couldn't be proven one way or another. The photo above is the latest composite released by investigators in the faint hope that someone will recognize America's Unknown Child, helping to solve one of Pennsylvania's greatest mysteries.
Upon his death, the young boy was buried in a potter's field. After his body had been exhumed for DNA extraction in the late 1990s, he was reburied in Philadelphia's Ivy Hill Cemetery. Original detectives - as well as every day Pennsylvanians and Americans touched by his story - continue to visit the Boy in the Box's final resting place, leaving behind flowers, stuffed animals, and toys.
Yet, the one thing they cannot do, despite the advancement of technology, is to identify him.
Have information on the murder of America's Unknown Child or think you may know his identity? Contact the Philadelphia Police Department by phone at 215.686.TIPS (8477), via text message at 773847, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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