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We Investigated The Chilling Case Of America's Missing Boy

Who was America's unknown child?

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On February 25, 1957, the body of a young boy was found in a box in an illegal dumping ground in Philadelphia. His mysterious murder caused various speculations and controversy throughout America. Here's the chilling story:

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The body was first found by a young man who was walking through the abandoned lot. Strangely, he waited a full day before calling the police. And even stranger, a second man had previously found the body. But didn't want to contact the police because he didn't want to get involved.

Police sent out over 400,000 flyers of images of the boy to police stations, post offices, and court houses all over the country. Even The American Medical Association sent out a description of the boy but it led nowhere.

Used with permission of Philadelphia Inquirer Copyright© 2017. All rights reserved.

Now let's go over some key clues left at the scene of the crime:

The first clue was the box the boy was left in. It contained a serial number which allowed investigators to trace the box back to a JC Penny's 15 miles away. Before the boy, the box was used to ship a bassinet. The store had shipped 12 of the boxes.

However, all of the purchasers paid in cash leaving no record. Eventually, eight purchasers contacted the police when they read about the story in newspapers to go on record that they either still had the boxes or had put them out for trash collection.


The second clue was the blanket the boy was wrapped in, which was examined by the Philadelphia Textile Institute. It was believed the blanket was made in either in Granby, Quebec or Swannanoa, NC. But there was no way to determine where this particular blanket was sold since thousands were sold.

Robbins remembered the man who purchased the hat because she customized it for him. She described him as blonde, between the ages of 26-20, and requested a leather strap and buckle be added to the hat. He paid in cash and she never saw him again. Detectives visited over 100 stores within the area but there were no witnesses.


A forensic pathologist examined photos of the potential father and brother and found similarities in the facial structure. A DNA sample was taken from the potential brother. Oddly, investigators did not say whether they would test DNA to compare the potential brother to the DNA of the boy in the box. They only said they would, "investigate further."

Used with permission of Philadelphia Inquirer Copyright© 2017. All rights reserved.

The second theory comes form medical examiner, Remington Bristow who examined the case for over 36 years. Bristow gathered newspaper clippings of the boy, spent thousands of dollars of his own money, and traveled all the way Arizona and Texas for leads.

Bristow theorized that the boy died accidentally. The boys fresh cut nails and hair indicated that he was well taken care of. Perhaps the boy's family never came forward because they didn't want to be charged with murder.


Based off of a psychic's clue, Bristow looked into a foster family that lived nearby where the boy was found. At this family's 1961 estate sale, Bristow found a bassinet that he believed could have been previously packaged in the box the boy was found in.

Bristow would eventually pass away in 1993. But shortly after, Philadelphia detective, Tom Augustine took up the case where Bristow left off. On February 23, 1998, Augustine went to the home of Arthur Nicoletti, the man who led the former foster home.

Nicoletti's wife, Anna Marie, was the woman Bristow theorized to be the mother of the boy in the box. In addition to being Nicoletti's wife, Anna Marie was also his step daughter.

Used with permission of Philadelphia Inquirer Copyright© 2017. All rights reserved.

Anna Marie told Augustine that she did have a son who passed away in bizarre fashion with morgue records supporting her statement. His cause of death was electrocution from a nickel ride outside of a store.

The last theory was from a psychiatrist in Cincinnati who contacted Augustine about one of her patients named Martha. She said Martha insisted on speaking to the police because she claimed her mother took her to a house where she handed an envelope over for a boy when she was eleven.

To this day the boy's identity remains a mystery. His grave is labeled, "America's Unknown Child" at the Ivy Hill Cemetary in Philadelphia. Perhaps someday we will learn who he was and what happened to him. Until then the case remains...unsolved.