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Philly PD to release identity of ‘Boy in the Box’ after breakthrough in DNA evidence

The 1957 homicide case has haunted and frustrated investigators for decades



By Robert Moran
The Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia police expect to provide a “significant update” on the notorious “boy in the box” homicide in 1957 that has haunted and frustrated investigators for decades, a department spokesperson said Wednesday.

“We do expect to provide a significant update on this case in the near future,” Sgt. Eric Gripp said in an email.

CBS3 and NBC10, citing sources, reported Wednesday that investigators using DNA evidence have identified the young boy, whose body was found in a large cardboard box along then-rural Susquehanna Road in Fox Chase. NBC10 reported that an announcement was expected next week.

On Feb. 25, 1957, Officer Elmer J. Palmer was dispatched to the scene and found a box for a JC Penney Co. bassinet containing the nude body of a boy, wrapped in a cheap flannel blanket. He appeared to be 4 to 6 years old. His blond hair had been cut short in a crude fashion, with clumps of hair still on his body. The back of his head had been smashed in. He was face up in the box, which was stamped “fragile.”

A major investigation commenced. Police Commissioner Thomas J. Gibbons approved the citywide distribution of posters with the boy’s face. News of the murder case, and a plea to help solve it, was literally hand-delivered to nearly every household in Philadelphia in the form of copies of the poster inserted with gas bills.

The case was reexamined over the decades, and was the subject of numerous media reports.

The unknown boy’s body was exhumed from his pauper’s grave for a DNA test, which proved fruitless at the time, and was reburied at Ivy Hill Cemetery in 1998.

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