In a Philadelphia cemetery recently, a grave was dug for a boy none of the mourners knew. In the process they dug up old sorrows that still make grown men cry.
CBS News Correspondent Richard Schlesinger reports on renewed efforts to solve a 41-year-old mystery, this time using DNA testing.
Sam Weinstein, a retired Philadelphia detective, was one of the police officers who, in 1957, discovered the bruised and beaten body of a 4-year-old boy in a box, in a dump.
"You had to look at that child's face the way I did when I first saw him and see that fright and that pain in his face," Weinstein says.
Flyers were sent all over the city, but the boys family never came forward, and police could never identify him. Weinstein and other police officers buried him in a potters field, and the case went cold. Weinstein has never forgotten the victim, known only as the Boy in the Box.
"This poor child was discarded as a piece of trash, stripped of his identity," he says.
The grave-side ceremony was actually a re-burial. The boy's body was exhumed recently so investigators could take DNA samples. There is a new push to identify the boy after 41 years. In the meantime, law enforcement officers hope to make the unknown boy a symbol.
Philadelphia homicide detective Tom Augustine hopes to be the one to learn the name of the unknown child.
"Somebody knows who this kid is, I'm convinced of that," Augustine says. "Somebody knows and it's a deep dark secret in somebody s closet, and they re hiding it."
The detectives are getting help from a group of professional sleuths called The Vidocq Society that regularly volunteers to help solve particularly tough cases. Its members are experts in fields that did not even exist 41 years ago.
The Vidocq Society is named for a 19th century French detective considered the father of criminal investigation. The group, led by former Philadelphia policeman and FBI agent Bill Fleiser, are applying modern science to the old police files. In this case they are searching for clues that might been overlooked.
"I believe the truth of this case is in those boxes of evidence," says Fleiser. He says the investigators will include "medical examiners, polygraph examiners, blood spatter expertsÂ…none of them afraid to ask anyone a question."
The truth is, with time, memories and evidence are lost. For the detectives, searching for a solution 41 years later is a way of repaying a debt to an abused nameless child.
"We owe so much to boys and girls like this that are lost children" says Weinstein.
For Sam Weinstein the Boy in the Box is no longer merely a case, he is a cause.
Reported by Richard Schlesinger
Copyright 1998 CBS. All rights reserved.
CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff