Joseph Augustus Zarelli aka 'Boy in the Box' gets new grave marker on his 70th birthday

Joseph Augustus Zarelli aka 'Boy in the Box' gets new grave marker on his 70th birthday
Joseph Augustus Zarelli was found naked, wrapped in a blanket with severe bruises all over his body on February 25, 1957 (@JennLeeTV/Twitter)

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA: Patty Braxton had mixed feelings when a priest led a number of mourners in prayer on Friday, January 13, to the grave of a small boy who was referred to until now as ‘America’s Unknown Child’ or the ‘Boy in the Box’. But a few weeks ago, with the help of advancements in DNA technology and other important contributing factors, the boy was identified as Joseph Augustus Zarelli. Braxton’s father Thomas Joseph Augustine spent many decades of his career working on the cold case. He is a retired Philadelphia detective whose family lived just down the street from the potter’s field, the site where the boy was previously buried. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Though Augustine died in October 2022, just weeks before the identification was made, his daughters with other family members were present this Friday at Ivy Hill Cemetery unveiling a new gravestone bearing the boy’s name. As per DNA and online genealogy records, this could also have been his possible 70th birthday. "In his heart, he knew he would never live to see the boy identified, and he didn't, which is just crushing. But we're so thankful to everybody who had a hand in bringing this to fruition, bringing it to an end," said Braxton, 53. Now, the next step in the investigation for the police is to solve how he died, however, it may be too late to make any arrests after the boy’s identity has been established. According to the authorities, the boy’s parents are dead, but he has living siblings.

READ MORE

JonBenet Ramsey murder: Dad John fears police may have lost evidence, insists on advanced DNA testing

Kenneth Nevada Williams: Police identify 15-yr-old 'runaway' 44 yrs after finding his body on the street



 

ADVERTISEMENT

Zarelli was first found naked, wrapped in a blanket with severe bruises all over his body on February 25, 1957, in a wooded area of Philadelphia’s Fox Chase neighborhood. His body was put inside a large JCPenney bassinet box, and it was noted that the boy was malnourished and had been beaten to death, as per police. "We're humans, and humans have evolved, in this country and other places, on bumpy roads. It hasn't always been pretty, but we continue to evolve and hopefully become more civilized," said Fleisher, a member of the Vidocq Society, a group of retired investigators devoted to cold cases. He added, "You have to know the history and understand history to do better now," said Fleisher, after reciting a Jewish prayer for the boy during the brief service organized, according to CBS News.

Fleisher, who had been working on the case since 1996, further said, "It is a big part of our city's history, a big part of the Philadelphia Police Department's history. It was the country's history. Everybody knew about this case. So this is everybody's victory."

Share this article: Joseph Augustus Zarelli aka 'Boy in the Box' gets new grave marker on his 70th birthday