New theory for "Boy in the Box"

May 21, 2008 8:30:16 PM PDT
It's about as cold as a cold case can be: the case of the boy in the box. The case has haunted Philadelphia for 51 years, the longest and most-investigated murder mystery in the city's history. Now a member of the Vidocq Society, a group of retired law enforcement detectives and other sleuths who specialize in unsolved crimes, has a new theory. It all began on this lonely dirt road 51 years ago. A young boy said to be 4 to 6 years old found nude in a cardboard box at an illegal dumping ground off Susquehanna near Verree Road in Philadelphia's Fox Chase section. Photos of the boy were widely distributed over the years throughout the country and he would ultimately be dubbed "America's unknown child". But despite it all, the case has never been solved. Now, world-renowned forensic artist Frank Bender thinks he knows why.

"I'm almost certain that they've been missing the boat because they've been showing a boy and he is a boy, but the boy, I believe, was dressed as a girl."

There are several reasons why Bender believes the boy was being raised as a girl. The medical examiner at the time noted that the boy's hair was hastily cut with strands still clinging to his torso. But Bender notes something else: his eyebrows looked like they were plucked. So Bender, who has an 85% clearance rate in helping authorities solve homicides, decided to draw a sketch. A sketch of what this child may have looked like if he was being raised as a girl. Bender is co-founder of the Vidocq Society. A book on his life's accomplishments has just been released by Random House. His colleagues say his theory is not out of the realm of possibilities. "I've been friends with frank for 30 years. Never discount his intuition and his inner sight," said Vidocq Society commissioner Bill Fleisher.

Bill Kelly, now retired, is one of the original investigators on the case. "I would not rule it out. I mean not even for a moment," he said.

Kelly said back in 1957 and 1958, renditions of the child as a girl by a West Coast artist were briefly published in newspaper accounts, but they produced no leads.

He thinks Bender's new rendition may be the clue they've been looking for:

"If he told me to get on the ledge and see if I could fly across the street, I would give it a shot. I would go flying down, but that's how much confidence i have in him, in his forensic knowledge."


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