There were a few dozen sad people praying next to the grave of a boy who was found de*ad in 1957 and was known for a long time as “America’s Unknown Child” or the “Boy in the Box.” The day was gray and rainy. When the priest spoke, Patty Braxton made a face.
Thomas Joseph Augustine, her father, was a detective in Philadelphia who retired. He spent most of his career working on a famous cold case. The boy was first buried in a field for potters, which was across the street from where his family lived. People in the family put flowers there on holidays.
But Augustine died in October, only six weeks before the child’s name was made public thanks to progress in DNA testing and online family trees. So, Braxton, her sister, and their families stood in his place at Ivy Hill Cemetery on Friday, the boy’s 70th birthday, as investigators who had been working on the case for decades unveiled a new gravestone with his name on it. The boy’s name was Joseph Augustus Zarelli.
“He was sure he wouldn’t make it to see the boy’s face, and he didn’t.” It’s really sad. I’m 53 years old and from San Jose, California. I said, “We’re so thankful to everyone who helped make this happen and end it.”
Even though it’s too late to arrest anyone, the police want to know how the boy died. They can do this now that they know who the boy was. Last month, the police said that the skinny 4-year-old boy has siblings who are still alive but that both of his parents have died.
In the past few years, the new field of genetic genealogy has helped bring old cold cases across the country back to life and sometimes solve them. The Golden State Killer case is one example.
What we know about “The Boy in the Box” will help us figure out other crimes
An old city detective named William Fleisher said at the funeral on Friday that it was a mix of good detective work, cutting-edge science, and the careful art of genealogical research.
Once there are family secrets that have been kept for a long time, it can be hard to hear the truth. Family members of the boy’s father on the Zarelli side haven’t talked to the press about their link to one of the city’s most disturbing murders. The police haven’t said who the child’s mother was or who was taking care of him yet.
Many people have spent hours online trying to figure out Joseph’s life and family tree based on the clues they gave at the press conference last month.
His badly hurt and naked body was found in the woods of Philadelphia’s Fox Chase neighborhood on February 25, 1957. He was put in a big bassinet box from JCPenney and wrapped in a blanket. The police say he was starving and had been beaten to dea*th.
No matter how painful it might be, Fleisher thinks that the rest of his story and our history should be told.
“We’re people, and people in this country and around the world have changed and grown on rough roads.” We are still changing and hopefully getting better, even though it hasn’t always been easy.Since he retired in 1996, Fleisher has worked on the case for many years. He is a part of the Vidocq Society, a group of retired detectives who work on unsolved crimes.
During the short service, Fleisher said a Jewish prayer for the boy while his own little grandsons wriggled around him. “To do better now, you have to know and understand history,” he said.
In the late 1950s, police put Joseph’s picture on utility bills and posters to try to figure out who k*illed him. But they couldn’t figure it out.
“It’s a significant part of the history of our city and the Philadelphia Police Department.” He said, “It was the history of the country.” “Everyone talked about this case. “Everyone wins this time.”
The boy may have lived in West Philadelphia, which is a long way from where his body was found.
“My mother and uncle grew up in West Philadelphia with his grandparents. The Zarellis are only a few blocks away.” “I walked around that area when I was a police officer,” Fleisher said. “The coincidences are hard to believe.”
Also, Augustine’s daughters are shocked at how much the boy’s name sounds like their dad’s. They may have all met in heaven and said, “Let’s finish this together.”
Her sister Braxton is Kim Augustine, and she is 56 years old. “This boy has been in our lives since we were kids,” she said.
She said, “We played softball next to the potter’s field, where he was buried. On holidays, we would pray and bring flowers to him.” “No one will ever forget him.”