A case over 60 years old finally identified its victim, giving an answer to one of the nation’s biggest mysteries.
Authorities found a boy between 4 and 6 years old dead in a box in northeast Philadelphia on Feb. 26, 1957, with no one ever coming forth to claim him. After 65 years, the Philadelphia Police Department identified the boy as Joseph Augustus Zarelli, the department announced Thursday.
“For 65 years, the story of America’s unknown child has haunted this community, the Philadelphia Police Department, our nation, and the world,” said PPD Commissioner Danielle Outlaw. “Despite the fact that Joseph Augustus Zarelli’s entire identity and rightful claim to his own existence was taken away, he has never been forgotten. This case brings hope that there will never again be an unidentified victim of homicide in the City of Philadelphia. I am grateful to the investigators, scientists, and medical personnel who worked so tirelessly on this case.”
Police used Zarelli’s DNA to find any relatives he might have but are refusing to reveal the identities of the parents, only sharing that they are dead, police confirmed with the Washington Examiner.
Zarelli has several siblings who are still alive and are keeping the names of his parents a secret out of respect for the siblings, according to Philadelphia Police Captain Jason Smith.
“In homicide cases such as this, extreme difficulty lies in the fact that rarely can they be resolved, and the offender ultimately brought to justice, until the victim is first identified,” said Smith.
A reward of $20,000 will be given to anyone who provides information that leads to an arrest and conviction in this case, according to police.
Anyone with information for this case can call Detective Robert Hesser of the Philadelphia Police Department’s Homicide Division at 215-686-3334 or call or text the department’s tipline at 215-686-TIPS (8744).