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Joseph Augustus Zarelli, 4, February 25, 1957, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania



February 25, 1957, the body of a little boy was found fully naked, wrapped in a multicolored blanket, in a cardboard bassinet box, and dumped along Susquehanna Road in Philadelphia's Fox Chase neighborhood. The 'Boy in the Box' was believed to be between the ages of 4 to 6. For the next 66 years, the 'Boy in the Box would remain unidentified.


The autopsy confirmed that the 'Boy in the Box' was found beaten to death, and died of blunt force trauma. He had scars from what was believed to be an IV line.


A court order was obtained on April 24, 2019, to have the remains exhumed in order to gather DNA.


On December 8, 2022, the Philadelphia Police publicly identified him as 4-year-old Joseph Augustus Zarelli. Both of Joseph's parents are now deceased. They were unable to 'prove' at this time who is suspected in killing Joseph.


Joseph never had a social security number obtained.


DNA technology and genealogy has helped identify Joseph with the help of forensic genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick with the Vidocq Society. This society is a volunteer group, a crime-solving nonprofit club made of former law enforcement personnel and forensic professionals for unsolved crimes.


Joseph lived in West Philadelphia, near Market and 61st Streets. He was born on January 13, 1953. He had several siblings whom are alive. Investigators confirmed this case is still opened.




Joseph's remains rest at the Ivy Hill Cemetery 1201 Easton Road in the Cedarbrook neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His headstone reads 'America's Unknown Child', but will soon be changed to have his name engraved.

The investigation in to Joseph's death continues. If you have information, please call 215-686-TIPS(8477). As with all homicides, there is a standing $20k reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of a suspect


Information accumulated by:

NBC News

CBS News

ABC News

OAN Find a Grave

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