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:
The young boy was estimated to be around 4-6 years old, weighed 30 pounds, and was 3'3. He was found naked but wrapped in a blanket. His hair was cut and his body was recently washed.
There were small scars on his chin, groin, and left ankle, which suggested he underwent a medical procedure. Head injuries were determined to be the cause of death.
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.
Due to the cold weather and time of year, police were not able to accurately estimate the time of death.
In hopes of finding the boy's identity, police kept the boy at the morgue. Vistors from over 10 different states tried to identify the boy by looking for any significant marks.
The police compared the child's footprints to hospital records in the area. Fingerprints were taken of the boy but there was no record to prove that he existed.
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 police were able to determine that the box was shipped to Upper Darby, Pennsylvania.
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.
The third clue was a hat that was found 15 feet away from the box. It was labeled, "Eagle Hat & Cap Company," and made by the small company owner, Hannah Robbins.
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.
There were also strands of hair found on the boy's body, suggesting a haircut. A forensic artist, Frank Bender, believed the boy was possibly raised as a girl.
With all these dead ends, let's get into the theories about what could have happened to the boy.
The first theory comes from authors Lou Romano and Jim Hoffman, who came across a lead from a man who rented his house to a man who said he sold his son.
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."
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.
He even went as far to carry a mask of the boys face in his briefcase.
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 began to theorize that the boy was an illegitimate child of the daughter of the foster family, and was abandoned by the daughter so she would not be revealed as a single mother.
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.
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.
Martha spoke with investigators stating that she was sexually abused by her mother and the mother wanted to do the same to the boy. She also claimed she beat the boy to death:
And according to investigators, Martha's story added up. But even with Martha's lead, the police were not able to verify if the boy was who Martha claimed he was.
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.