Uncovering the Unsolved: Volume 1

Boy in the Box


Delaney Rice

DNA testing is constantly evolving, and unsolved cases from as long as decades ago have been reopened and are receiving new information. There are millions of unsolved homicide, kidnapping, and crime cases all over the world that investigators have not been able to solve due to the lack of DNA testing. Now that our scientists have been working tirelessly to evolve this process, unsolved cases have been rapidly reopening.

The age-old case of “The Boy in the Box” has just been reopened and is hot with new information. Due to an advancement in DNA testing and genealogy, investigators were able to find this unidentified boy and reopen this case in the hopes of finding his killer. Since 1957, the boy known as “The Boy in the Box” has been unknown, until now.

On an early February morning in 1957, a college student named Frederick Benonis in Philadelphia was walking along a road and noticed a box that seemed to have a doll inside but did not think much of it. Later that week, he heard a new story of a missing girl and alerted the police, thinking that the missing girl could have been in the box and that it was not a doll after all. Frederick was not the only one to see the body before the police arrived. A teenager had noticed the body approximately two days after Fredrick had noticed it, but he never told the authorities until about a month after it was released to the press due to him being scared and frightened of what he had seen. Although the boys were allegedly the first ones to discover the body, they were never considered suspects. After the authorities were notified, they arrived at the scene on February 26th, 1957, at approximately 10 a.m. They walked in on a horrific crime. The body had been wrapped in a blanket and put into a cardboard box that held a bassinet that was sold at a JCPenny just down the road. He had been harshly beaten and sexually assaulted by his attacker. Although his hair and fingernails seemed to be freshly cut and groomed, either at the time of his death or shortly before, which seemed odd to the investigators, During the autopsy, it was revealed that the harsh beatings he suffered were the ultimate cause of death. After countless letters sent to the police in relation to the boy and countless letters sent out to surrounding areas asking if anybody had seen this boy, this case was eventually closed and they didn’t find the boy. They even dedicated a headstone to him, reading “America’s Unknown Child,” but he is no longer unknown. The “Boy in the Box” is now known as four-year-old Joseph Augustus Zarelli.

This brought gratification to the Philadelphia authorities, but this case is not quite solved yet. They are still searching for his attacker, doing further DNA tests on the boy and the items found with him, and trying to get tips from the public. Hopefully we get closure soon, but until then, this case isn’t over yet. Stay tuned for Volume 2 of Uncovering the Unsolved.