Boy in the Box: Memorial honors child identified in decades-old Philadelphia cold case

A memorial tribute was held in honor of Joseph Augustus Zarelli on Saturday, which marked 66 years since Zarelli’s body was discovered bruised and malnourished on Susquehanna Road.

Members of the Vidocq Society held a small ceremony at Ivy Hill Cemetery where Zarelli is buried. 

Until late last year, Zarelli was commonly referred to as "America’s Unknown Child" and "The Boy in the Box."

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"This is a Philadelphia story. This is a human story. We could’ve gone to where he was found at Susquehanna Road. We didn’t. We decided that’s history. Here, he exists as Joseph Augustus Zarelli," said Bill Fleisher, Commissioner of the Vidocq Society.

Zarelli’s identity was finally confirmed using new DNA technology. Countless detectives spent years pouring their time and energy to identify the four-year-old and solve the notorious cold case.

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"This case has always been near, and dear to my heart," said Retired Sergeant Bob Kuhlmeier of the Philadelphia Police Department. "We were longing to have identity for the boy, and it feels so surreal to be able to finally say through our efforts we now know who the child is. I think there’s probably going to be a final say of how he met his demise. Who’s responsible."

Zarelli’s grave site is filled with gifts and toys to honor his short life, including car toys and stuffed animals.