February 25, 1957, the naked, battered body of a young boy, between 4-6 years of age, was found in a box in Fox Chase, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Investigators assumed the ‘Boy in the Box’ case would be quickly solved. Unfortunately, no one ever made a positive identification, and nearly 60 years later, ‘America’s Unknown Child’ still has not received his name.
A Box Containing a Body is Discovered
He did not report the body, as he feared the police would take away his traps. Instead, he left the area.
A few days later, on February 24th, another young man headed into the wooded area. He had spotted a rabbit entering the underbrush, and knowing that there were traps in the area he decided to investigate.
It did not take him too long to find the box containing the body. He too, was set on not contacting the police, but the following day he changed his mind.
Investigators arrived on the scene. The box was positioned in thick underbrush, a popular dumping ground for rubbish, and had the body not been discovered at that time, it may have gone unfound for weeks, if not months.
The Young Boy
His finger and toenails had been trimmed shortly before he had died, but his hair appeared to have been cut shortly after, small clumps of medium to light brown hair clung to his body. The hair cutting had been hurried, and close to the scalp.
He had blue eyes and pale skin. Due to the cool weather investigators found it hard to determine exactly how long the child had been dead, somewhere between 2-3 days and a few weeks
Investigators expected the case to be solved quite quickly with the boy’s parents making a positive identification. However, this never happened.
Many methods were used to ensure the image of the boy would get into as many homes as possible.
Newspapers ran stories, hundreds of thousands of posters were placed all over the city, and eventually, utility bills contained a photo of the boy, ensuring better exposure.
Unfortunately, all leads turned to dead ends.
A Lonely Funeral
Yearly anniversary observances took place at the Unknown Child's grave, but slowly hope diminished of ever identifying him, and finally adding a name to his headstone
The first involves a foster home that was located approximately 1.5 miles from the discovery site. In 1960, Remington Bristow, an employee of the medical examiner's office who doggedly pursued the case until his death in 1993, contacted a New Jersey psychic, who told him to look for a house which seemed to match the foster home
Bristow believed that the child belonged to the stepdaughter of the man who ran the foster home; they disposed of the boy's body so that she wouldn't be exposed as an unwed mother, as there was still in 1957 a significant social stigma associated with single motherhood. Bristow theorized that the boy's death was accidental.
Despite this circumstantial evidence, the police were unable to find any concrete links between the Boy in the Box and the foster family.
In 1998, Philadelphia police lieutenant Tom Augustine, who is in charge of the investigation, and several members of the Vidocq Society, a group of retired policemen and profilers investigating the crime, interviewed the foster father and the daughter, whom he had married.
The interview seemed to confirm to them that the family was not involved in the case, and the foster home investigation is considered closed.
The second major theory is one brought forward in February 2002 by a woman identified only as "M". She claimed that her abusive mother purchased the unknown boy, named "Jonathan", from his birth parents in the summer of 1954.
Subsequently, the youngster was subjected to extreme physical and sexual abuse for two and a half years, then killed in a fit of rage by slamming him to the floor after he vomited in the bathtub.
"M"'s mother then cut the boy's long hair (accounting for the unprofessional haircut that police noted upon their initial observations of the crime scene and bruises around the victim's hairline), and dumped the boy's body in the then-secluded Fox Chase area.
"M" went on to say that as they were preparing to remove the boy's body from the trunk a passing male motorist pulled alongside to inquire whether they needed assistance. As the pair ignored the would-be samaritan, while being careful to obstruct their own car's license plate from his view, the man eventually drove off.
This story corroborated confidential testimony given by a male witness in 1957, which alleged the body was placed in a box previously discarded at the scene. Police considered the story quite plausible, but were troubled by "M"'s testimony, as she had a history of mental illness.
When interviewed, neighbors who had access to the house denied that there had been a young boy living in the house, and said that "M"'s claims were "ridiculous."
A Final Burial
Unfortunately, as yet he still remains unidentified however some DNA matches have removed some suspects from the case.
The Unknown Child's body was buried at his final resting place in Ivy Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia on Nov 11 1998. Members from the Vidocq Society (a group whose members, forensic professionals, take on unsolved crimes) and the Philadelphia Police Officers carried the small white coffin from the hearse to the grave.
The new headstone reads "America's Unknown Child... Dedicated November 11, 1998", with the original headstone located at the foot of his grave.
Today you will find many toys, teddy bears and flowers on his headstone. Although this child died with nothing, not even a name, there are those who will not forget him.
The information here is just a very small part. For more information including how you can help investigators with this case visit, www.americasunknownchild.net.
The America's Unknown Child website contains just about every piece of information that has been made available to the public. If you have any information about this 60 year old unsolved case, visit the website and contact them. The smallest piece of information could present a breakthrough.