Post by catherinetd on Jan 14, 2009 10:29:58 GMT -5
From the Philadelphia Inquirer-
Posted on Wed, Jun. 26, 2002
New clues fueling hope in a 45-year mystery
“The Boy in the Box” has stymied investigators since 1957, when the body of a boy was found in Fox Chase. The case was never closed.
By Thomas J. Gibbons Jr. and Marc Schogol
Inquirer Staff Writers
TOM GRALISH / Inquirer
After being exhumed to seek DNA clues, the boy's body was buried under this marker in Ivy Hill Cemetery off Easton Road in Northwest Philadelphia.
For 45 years, it has been a mystery that has haunted homicide detectives - troubling some long after they have left their jobs.
It is the case of "The Boy in the Box," the puzzle of the unidentified young boy, age 4 to 6, whose nude and battered body was found in a cardboard carton in the Fox Chase section of the city's Northeast.
Now, countless unsolved Philadelphia murders later, a band of sleuths - a city homicide officer and two retired investigators - is hot on a new trail, intent on cracking a very cold case.
In the last several weeks, the team flew to Cincinnati to conduct interviews with at least two people who reportedly have information about the murder of the boy. One is said to be a woman now living in that area who resided with the boy before his murder.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson and other top officials cautioned yesterday that the investigation could lead to a dead end.
But they stopped short of discounting the new leads. And the investigators working the case are said to believe the fresh leads are worth a hard look.
The trio returned from the Midwest with the strong belief that they had found critical information that the boy died in a home in Lower Merion Township when a female "step-relative" threw him to the bathroom floor after he vomited in the home, in a wealthy section of the township.
They also returned with the name of that boy: Jonathan.
The step-relative, also referred to as a "care-giver" by investigators, is now dead.
After the body was removed from the house, so the lead suggests, it was driven to a lonely section off Susquehanna Road in the Northeast and left behind in a brown cardboard box.
If the boy was killed in Lower Merion Township, the case would draw in investigators from Montgomery County. The district attorney there, Bruce L. Castor Jr., conferred yesterday with senior Philadelphia police after KYW-TV (Channel 3) first broke news of the new inquiry.
Castor said that county detectives and Lower Merion police would work with city investigators to try to verify the new information. But he made it clear he viewed the development with caution.
"The information is sketchy, and there is every possibility that it is unreliable," Castor said in a statement. "Philadelphia police were right not to go public and perhaps raise false hopes with this because it might turn out to be nothing."
Police Commissioner Johnson struck a similar note.
"It's a good, strong lead, but nothing is confirmed," Johnson said yesterday. "Nothing is concrete."
Pursuing the latest tip was Philadelphia Homicide Detective Thomas Augustine, the lead investigator. He was accompanied to Ohio by William Kelly, a retired city police fingerprint expert, and Joseph McGillen, a retired investigator with the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's Office.
All three are active in the Vidocq Society, a group of crime and forensic experts who try to solve long-unsolved cases. Augustine and McGillen would not comment yesterday. Kelly could not be reached.
If the investigation stalls out, it will be only the last of many futile leads investigators have run down since Feb. 25, 1957, when a college student stumbled across the boy in the box.
The carton was found on top of a trash pile in a wooded area off what was then a lonely country lane between Verree and Pine Roads.
There were few clues to his identity. He was clean, and his fine blond hair had been crudely cut. Bruises covered his body, which was wrapped in a cheap flannel blanket. The medical examiner ruled that he had died of blunt-force trauma.
There were indications that someone had groomed him while he was undressed, probably before or just after death.
The cardboard carton, stamped "fragile," originally contained a baby's bassinet, sold by the J.C. Penney Co. on 69th Street in Upper Darby.
The boy was buried in a potter's field near the city limits in the Far Northeast, a graveyard for executed prisoners, unidentified bodies and body parts.
In 1998, the body was exhumed from its resting place near Mechanicsville and Dunks Ferry Roads so investigators could try to get DNA samples. It was then reburied in Ivy Hill Cemetery off Easton Road in Northwest Philadelphia.
The idea was to obtain forensic evidence that someday could be checked against any new DNA evidence that might surface. It is unclear whether the effort to obtain a DNA sample succeeded, given the many years that had passed since the death.
The cost of the burial was borne by the Vidocq Society.
About that time, the probe took on new life as Augustine; retired Philadelphia Police Detective Sam Weinstein, who was among the first police at the scene when the body was found; and William L. Fleisher, a polygraph expert and Vidocq official, lent their talents.
A story on the boy aired on the popular TV show America's Most Wanted, generating hundreds of new leads. The boy was renamed "America's Unknown Child," and his tombstone bears that title.
Dick Lavinthal, a spokesman for the Vidocq Society, said this week:
"Positive developments may be bringing us closer to the day that Philadelphians and millions of others across the country get answers to a mystery death that has frightened and transfixed generations.
"We all look forward to the day when the Vidocq Society can engrave a name onto the tombstone that marks the final resting place of America's Unknown Child," Lavinthal said.
Ken Coluzzi, a retired Philadelphia police Homicide Division lieutenant who is now now chief of police in Lower Makefield Township, Bucks County, is one of the numerous investigators who worked the case in the past. He's hoping the Ohio angle pans out.
"If this comes to fruition, it will be the result of all the hard work of the detectives throughout the years who have handed this case down to one another," Coluzzi said. "They refused to give up."
Post by catherinetd on Jan 14, 2009 10:31:02 GMT -5
45-year-old mystery gets another look - Police probe new information in 1957 killing of unknown boy
Sunday, June 30, 2002 By The Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA -- Police detectives are exploring a new lead they hope will help them identify a young boy whose naked, bruised body was found stuffed inside a cardboard box and abandoned in a wooded lot 45 years ago.
The boy's death riveted the city in 1957. Police plastered the city with photographs of the rail-thin child, whose sunken eyes and bloodied lips prompted investigators to speculate that he had been abused before his death.
Experts estimated that he was between 4 and 6 years old, but police have never been able to identify him or determine exactly how he died.
A prosecutor confirmed last week, however, that police had received a new, "uncorroborated" tip that the boy may have been killed in Lower Merion, a well-off Philadelphia suburb, and that his name was Jonathan.
Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor cautioned that "the information is sketchy and there is every possibility that it is unreliable."
"It might turn out to be nothing," he said.
In the past few weeks, a city homicide detective and two retired investigators flew to Cincinnati to interview at least two people, one said to be a woman who lived with the boy before he was killed, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The investigation -- dormant for decades -- was revived in recent years by the Vidocq society, a club of retired law enforcement officials, forensic scientists and amateur detectives who specialize in cracking cold cases.
Society spokesman Dick Lavinthal confirmed Tuesday that "there have been positive developments that could be bringing us closer" to identifying the boy, but he declined to elaborate.
The department declined to say what new information investigators had received or comment on a KYW-TV news report that police were close to breaking the case.
The investigation into the boy's death has run hot and cold since 1957, as detectives have followed one false lead after another.
Early on in the investigation, police dressed the child's body and photographed him sitting in an upright position, hoping that someone who saw the more lifelike photographs might recognize him.
At one point, a tipster said the boy bore a resemblance to a young Hungarian refugee in a newspaper photograph. Investigators tracked other missing children from New Jersey and Tulsa, Okla., in hopes of making a match. None panned out.
As recently as 2001, detectives investigated a false lead that the boy was a child who had been reported missing in Tennessee.
In 1998, the boy's body was exhumed from a pauper's grave in hopes of getting a DNA sample. The case also was featured that year on the Fox television program "America's Most Wanted."
The boy was reburied in Ivy Hill cemetery under a tombstone identifying him as "America's Unknown Child."
But, while the media trumpeted the story, eager to wrap up the 45-year-old mystery, Castor was skeptical from the start, calling her story "akin to Martians coming down and marching somebody off in a spaceship."
And, so far, Castor said, detectives have been unable to corroborate any part of the woman's story since she came forward last summer. Castor said he's unwilling to accept it as a Montgomery County case.
"I'm not so sure that the information that was highly publicized is accurate and I don't know how reliable that information actually is," Castor said. "I'm not so sure that the information gathered was from a credible source."
Now a business executive in Cincinnati, the woman told investigators that as a child she lived with the boy in a Lower Merion home. He died after a female caregiver threw him to the bathroom floor, punishment for vomiting in the bathtub. His nude and battered body was found in a cardboard box in a wooded area along what is now Susquehanna Road near Verree in February 1957.
Police estimated the boy to be about 4 years old. He had suffered multiple head injuries, but the medical examiner declared the cause of death uncertain. Police treated it as a homicide.
The child's bruises and unknown identity have haunted city residents and investigators ever since. When the woman's tale was leaked to the media, they clamped on it with hope.
Her story held some credibility because she revealed the information to her physician in 1989. The doctor initially contacted law enforcement officials, but he and police worked 13 years to convince her to step forward.
She claimed she was about 12 when the boy was killed by a female caregiver who is now deceased. The witness said the boy was given to a Main Line family two years before his death in what may have been an unofficial adoption.
Autopsy photos of the boy's body show signs of abuse. The woman claimed he was malnourished and physically and sexually abused. Restricted to the basement where he slept in a cardboard refrigerator box, he rarely left the house, she said.
Castor assigned a detective from his office and one from the Lower Merion Police Department to investigate. The woman described the general area where she claimed the house was located. Combing through property records and municipal tax records, detectives narrowed the search to a specific address and a particular family.
They considered filing for a search warrant or asking for a consent search, but the home was so different than it was in 1957 that "it wasn't worth it," Castor said.
Using municipal records, they tracked down residents who lived in the area at the time and might remember a child from the neighborhood suddenly gone missing. Nobody remembered.
"It sounded good at the beginning because people from the Main Line might not have ever thought anything of it when you had a body (discovered) 20 miles away or 15 miles away," Castor said. "We tried to get them thinking about it, but nothing panned out."
After the woman's information was publicized, Castor said people called him with all kinds of "wacky theories," including rumors they heard that the boy was a sex slave. Again, nothing panned out.
Castor said the inability to corroborate the evidence doesn't mean the witness' information is false. "But what it means is that usually we could get at least some partial corroboration and we don't have any," he said. "So that's where we are, which is nowhere."
The case is back in the hands of Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham, who could not be reached for comment. Castor said his detectives will continue to help if asked, but they've exhausted their means to verify the woman's story.
"Right from the beginning, it didn't ever smell right to me," Castor said. "I never warmed up to the whole idea, although I know Philly was dying for it to be my problem."
Post by catherinetd on Jan 14, 2009 10:37:39 GMT -5
'Boy in a Box' Honored with 10 Year Anniversary Ceremony
by KYW's Mike DeNardo
Police investigators gathered on Tuesday morning to mark the day ten years ago that Philadelphia's unidentified "Boy in the Box" was reburied.
It's Philadelphia's ultimate Cold Case -- the "Boy in the Box." 51 years ago, a boy's battered body was found inside a cardboard box in Fox Chase. The boy was never identified.
Ten years ago, his body was exhumed from Philadelphia's Potter's Field and reburied at Ivy Hill Cemetery (in photo above) under a headstone marked "America's Unknown Child."
Members of the crime-expert organization known as the Vidocq Society have kept the case alive. Former Philadelphia police officer and society commissioner Bill Fleisher:
"Strange as it may seem, I believe we are getting a little closer. Every time we have a wall we run into, we climb over it. I think there are some new theories that have been developing very recently which may afford a solution. But our thing is to be hopeful."