The unidentified victim of one of America’s oldest unsolved murders is expected to be named Thursday in Philadelphia, raising hopes that the boy’s shocking 1957 slaying could someday be solved.
Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, her top deputies, the Philadelphia medical examiner and volunteer sleuths have scheduled an 11 a.m. news conference to reveal findings connected to the so-called Boy in the Box murder probe, officials said.
Remains of a badly beaten boy, believed to be 3 to 7 years old, were wrapped in a blanket and found in a cardboard box in Philadelphia’s Fox Chase neighborhood on Feb. 25, 1957.
And for 65 years, not only has no one ever been held accountable for the slaying, but a name has also never been attached to the victim.
He’s simply been known as the “Boy in the Box.”
But that’s set to change Thursday when police are expected to name the victim, thanks to breakthroughs in DNA technology, officials said.
Generations of Philadelphia police have struggled with the case, which has also been the longtime focus of fascination for volunteers with the Vidocq Society, a Philadelphia crime-solving club.
Members of the nonprofit organization are former law enforcement personnel and forensic professionals who share an interest in unsolved crimes.
Vidocq co-founder Bill Fleisher, a former Philadelphia police officer and FBI agent, said he was overcome with emotion upon learning about developments in the case.
“I don’t cry much, but my wife and I cried the other night,” he told NBC Philadelphia after police told him they had identified the child.
The boy’s remains rest at Ivy Hill Cemetery with a headstone identifying him as “America’s Unknown Child.”
Years of investigation and two exhumations of the boy’s body yielded DNA samples.
The Vidocq Society linked Philadelphia police with one of its members, the famed forensic genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick, and she used the DNA to develop a list of the boy’s possible relatives.
“I feed that to the police department and the police department runs those leads out … knocking on doors, talking to people,” Fleisher said.
Armed with a list of possible relatives, police dug through old case files and eventually learned the child’s identity and found his birth certificate, NBC Philadelphia reported.
Fitzpatrick and Fleisher are scheduled to meet with reporters Thursday.
The break in the case has been a long time coming, especially for law enforcement veterans, who can associate the comfortable residential neighborhood of northeast Philadelphia only with the notorious unsolved murder.
“Every time I heard the word(s) Fox Chase, I didn’t think of Fox Chase. I saw that little boy’s picture,” Fleisher said.
It’s believed the boy is connected to a prominent family in Delaware County, a Philadelphia suburb.