The Boy In The Box

Dead Child's Identity Still A Mystery After 40 Years

It was a strange funeral in Philadelphia. Nobody knew the boy being buried. They only knew that he was found dead more than 40 years ago.

They were burying him again after digging him up from an anonymous grave in a potter's field.

But, as Correspondent Richard Schlesinger reports, almost everything about this boy's life and death was still a mystery.
"It had rained. It was sort of foggish," recalls Sam Weinstein, a retired detective who was one of the first policemen on the scene.

Weinstein was responding to a call about a suspicious box. A boy's beaten body was found stuffed inside.

"The boy was stripped of his identity. He had no clothing. His hair was chopped off. Bruises from head to foot," recalls Weinstein.

Forensics determined the boy was about 4-years-old, and that he had died from head injuries.

"When the medical examiner arrived, I was the one who lifted him out of the box. As hard-hearted as I could be, it really got to me," says Weinstein. "I saw so much hurt and fear in his face, as if his eyes were talking to someone. 'What happened? Why is this happening to me?' And that's what hurts."

From the beginning, police had hundreds of leads about the child they called the "boy in the box." They had the blanket, cut in two pieces, which he was wrapped in. They traced the box to a J.C. Penney store, and they compared the boy's footprints to thousands on file in hospitals throughout the area.

It led nowhere.

"Who can discard a child and not even have any conscience to even come forward and say, 'This is my baby,'" asks Weinstein.
Had he lived, the boy in the box would be approximately 52 years old today. But in the years since his murder, potential police sources have either died or forgotten important information. And with every passing day, this case was getting older, and colder.

Seven years ago, Philadelphia Detective Tom Augustine asked to be assigned to this case. "Somebody knows who this kid is. I'm convinced of that," says Augustine. "And it's a deep, dark secret in somebody's closet."

Augustine became interested in this case when he was a child, and saw pictures of the boy in the box on police posters all over town. He got big breaks when a book about the case, and a television show, "America's Most Wanted," suddenly brought in new leads.

Augustine turned to Weinstein for help. Weinstein was now a member of the Visdog Society, a group of retired investigators who work with police to solve old murder cases.

Every lead is checked out – and they've all led to dead ends. But everyone who's worked this case since the '50s has been suspicious of a foster home that was just about a mile from where the boy's body was found.

The police had heard that the children there had the same haircuts as the boy found in the box -- and the same blankets as the one found covering his body.

"The blanket, the haircut. It's too close – the house is there. It all fits," says Augustine.

And then someone came forward with old movies from inside the house. While viewing the movies, Augustine discovered, much to his disappointment, that the haircuts were different.

In 1998, police dug up the boy's body to obtain DNA samples. But police still need to find his family to make a match. Two retired investigators who originally worked the case, Joe McGillen and Bill Kelly, continued their investigation.

"We'd like to think, in our heart of hearts, that we're not necessarily all that far away," says McGillen.
This case has haunted two generations of detectives so far -- each one hoping the next lead will be the real thing.

Det. Augustine hopes the boy in the box will one day be identified. "I hope he will," he says. "I would also get great pleasure outta locking up the person that beat this kid to death. ...But you can't give up. You gotta hang in."
Sam Weinstein has passed away, and retired investigators Joe McGillen and Bill Kelly still work on the case every day. Det. Tom Augustine says the case remains active and they are taking in tips.
  • Rebecca Leung

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