After more than six decades of mystery and dead ends, authorities on Thursday finally identified the "boy in the box" who was discovered dead alongside a Pennsylvania roadway.
Philadelphia police revealed Joseph Augustus Zarelli as the name of the child, who was 4 years old. His body was found in 1957.
Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said the unsolved death has long "haunted this community, the Philadelphia Police Department, our nation, and the world."
"When people think about the boy in the box, a profound sadness his felt, not just because a child was murdered, but because his entire identity and his rightful claim to own his existence was taken away," Outlaw said at a news conference.
On Feb. 25, 1957, the naked remains of the child were found inside a bassinet box in a wooded area in northeast Philadelphia. Officials said he had been badly beaten and severely malnourished.
No one came forward to claim the child and the investigation eventually went cold.
Joseph's remains were initially buried in a potter's field in Philadelphia and remained there until 1998, when they were exhumed for testing that would not provide authorities with any clues. His body was re-interred at Ivy Hill Cemetery, where a headstone today reads, "America's Unknown Child."
The body was again exhumed in 2019 with the hope modern technology could offer new insight.
Outlaw said a combination of detective work and DNA analysis allowed them to finally learn Joseph's identity. The homicide investigation remains open, and authorities said they hope releasing the boy's name will spur new leads.
"I want to thank all who have worked tirelessly since 1957 to give Joseph Augustus Zarelli his voice back," she later tweeted. "However, the search for justice continues."
Authorities are offering a $20,000 reward for information in the case.
With News Wire Services