unidentified: the boy in the box

In February 1957, 18-year-old John Powrozrik was checking his muskrat traps down a quiet and isolated road, Susquehanna Road in Fox Chase, Philadelphia. Whilst he was there, he spotted a box containing a dead body, however, due to the fact his traps were illegal he did not report his discovery. A few days later, a student named Fredrick Benosis was along the lane spying on young, religious women from the Good Sheperd School. He did not report his discovery of the box as he was worried about what the police may say regarding the reason he was there, however, a day later he decided to go to the police and report the body he had found wrapped in a plaid blanket, stuffed in a box.

The police opened the investigation into the boy in the box on February 26, 1957. A caucasian male, around the age of 4 to 6 years old whose nude body was wrapped in a flannel blanket, dry and clean, lying face up in a large cardboard box. The boy's arms were folded across his stomach with the child being about 40 and a half inches tall and weighing 30 pounds, appearing malnourished. He had blue eyes, pale skin and his hair was light brown/blonde. His hair had recently been cut, very close to the head as small clumps of the hair were still stuck to the skin, also suggesting it had been groomed when he was undressed. It is unknown whether or not this was before or after death, and if it was to conceal his true identity as his fingernails had also recently been clipped.

The boy was covered in bruises, with seven scars, three of which surgical with one that suggests some kind of infusion or transfusion yet he had not had vaccinations and had not been circumcised. He had three moles on his face and six on his body with a full set of baby teeth. The palm of his right hand and his feet looked a though they had been submerged in water for a long time. There is also a suggestion he had a chronic eye problem, and an x-ray showed no broken bones. Blood, hair and tissue samples were taken as well as fingerprints but no matches were ever found. It is believed he had not eaten three to four hours before death, yet a mysterious dark brown residue was found in the oesophagus which is consistent with vomit.

The body was found in a large cardboard box which contained a baby's bassinet once (only twelve were sold) and it was believed when traced, that only one was not accounted for. The box was dry and in good condition, containing no fingerprints. A faded blanket made of cheap cotton flannel which was clean had been cut and could not be pinpointed to a place was wrapped around the boy. Other objects such as a cap, a handkerchief, shoes and clothes were found nearby yet there was no proof of a clear connection.

Finding the boy proved difficult, and investigators looked into every suspect and lead they could think of. The first of these being the boy who was watching the girls down the lane, who originally lied about the reason he was there. He was questioned and did a polygraph test voluntarily which cleared him of any suspicion. Another man believed the boy may have been his brother, however, police found the missing boy alive and well with an older brother. Two carnival workers were jailed in 1961 for the death of their daughter, they admitted they had let six of ten children die of malnutrition and neglect, disposing of the bodies in multiple places but an investigation cleared them of connection. In 2004, people in Florida claimed their mother was the boy's mother, and even paid for DNA testing which did not match, they were certain it was a mistake so paid again which once again did not match.

The next lead was a young boy named Steven Craig Dammon, who was kidnapped outside a supermarket on October 3, 1955, when he was 34 months old. As he was the same age of as the boy if alive, and there were similarities between the two, they thought that they may be the same person. Copies of both boy's footprints and x-rays were sent off to be compared however there was a lack of similarities such as the missing boy had kidney problems and an old broken bone yet the dead boy did not. The lead was dismissed, and in 2003 DNA testing conclusively proved there was no connection between the two. As well as thus, there was a foster home nearby with a tragic background. Eight were living there at the time and ask were accounted for so this was dropped in 1960. An investigator started focusing on this and hired a psychic who lead him to the home with no knowledge of it and believed, with theories, that the home was connected. In 1984 the police agreed to interview the woman owner as the investigator believed the boy was her illegitimate child, however, there was no hard evidence. When the case reopened in 1998, a police captain reinvestigated and found no involvement in again. Shortly after the case aired on America's Most Wanted TV in 1998, seven people joined a forum. One lady that lived in the area believed her friend knew incriminating stuff regarding the foster family saying they had relatives in the police who may have covered it up. However, this friend was never able to help as she was busy and it was eventually uncovered as a hoax.

A mass raid on a farm in September 1957 caught four people who had been named as suspects after an unidentified women disclosed some confidential information, yet all were released. In 1965, it was suggested the boy may have been an immigrant which explains the lack of hospital records. An article in 1956 stated Hungarian refugees had arrived, and in the photo, there was a boy that looked like the dead child, however, they found him safe and well. A boy and his mother went missing from Rhode Island on February 19, 1957, and the boy is believed to look similar to the one found dead, yet this turned out to be a dead end. There were certain similarities between the dead girl and a homicide of a 5-year-old girl which prompted an investigation yet no link was found.

A man who was arrested in the disappearance of a young woman he was dating had a clipping about the boy in the box, however, a polygraph came back negative and it was proved he was probably nowhere near the place of discovery at the time of death. In December 1999 a man said that his parents rented a house to a family in Philadelphia in 1956/57. They were there for nine months and were very quiet and secluded, and no one really knew how many people lived there. At the time the boy was discovered, they moved away quite quickly, even leaving food on the table. Clothes found also proved a young boy had lived there. Apparently, the man's mother reported this but never received any feedback. In 2000 investigators found an index card that confirmed that the lead had been provided to the police. There was a lady interviewed in 1957 who apparently babysat for the family and although there was a little boy, she said he did not resemble the unknown boy. It is unknown where the family went and why they left so suddenly but the brief information provided enough evidence that the lead had no value.

In September 2000, a Michigan women told the police she believed he was a young boy that moved into her Detriot neighbourhood. Apparently, he was shy, withdrawn and mistreated by his drunk stepfather. In late 1956/early 1957, he had tried to cut his own hair and messed it up which infuriated his stepfather. Shortly after the family went on a two-week trip to Kentucky and when they returned the boy was not with them, apparently he had been adopted by a doctor and although this was not believed it was never reported. Yet, along with extensive research, no connection could be found and police eventually discontinued their active pursuit.

The biggest lead was a woman from Ohio, who in February 2002 contacted the police through her psychiatric. She claimed her abusive mother bought the boy from his father in summer 1954 and physically and sexually abused him for 2 and a half years and then killed him in a rage after he vomited. The lady has originally told her psychiatrist in 1989 but declined to come forwards. When interviews she said she lived in the suburb of Pennsylvania when they bought the mute, frail, mentally handicapped boy named Jonathan so that he could be abused. Apparently, he was kept in the basement and was never allowed the be seen. After his death, the mother cut his nails and hair to conceal his identity and then wrapped him in a blanket and placed him in the trunk. She and her mother arrived at the narrow, secluded lane and went to remove him when a man stopped and asked if they were having car troubles. They did not speak and blocked the number plate until the man eventually drove away, this account almost exactly matched a confidential testimony of an unknown male who reported this in 957. After the mother placed the boy in a box they found at the scene and drove away. Investigators were impressed by the plausible testimony, yet the woman had a history of mental problems so there was concern over whether or not this was fake. It is unknown how much information had been released about the case at this time, so it is unknown whether the information came from the news or whether or not she actually experienced this. Family members have said there was never another boy in the house, and that basement gave no evidence of another child living there however it is believed this is still an open lead.

The boy was originally buried in Potters Field, however, in 1998 his body was exhumed to extract DNA which due to the amount of decomposition had to be obtained from enamel on a tooth. He was reburied at Ivy Hill Cemetry in Cedarbrook, Philadelphia which donated a large plot for him. The coffin, headstone and funeral service were donated by the man who had previously buried the boy in 1957. The grave has a large headstone bearing the words 'Americas Unknown Child' and is decorated with flowers and stuffed animals whilst being looked after by local residents. It is unlikely that the identity and the truth about the boy's death will ever be discovered, and he will remain America's unknown child forever.

more info/sources-