Masses dedicated to Philadelphia's 'Boy in the Box,' who now has a name

Everyone who gathered at the service on Wednesday, on what's known as the Feast of the Holy Innocents, was touched by his story.

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Thursday, December 29, 2022
Masses dedicated to 'boy in the box,' who now has a name
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Two churches in Philadelphia dedicated Mass to the child who was known as the 'Boy in the Box' for 65 years until his name was finally revealed.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Two churches in Philadelphia dedicated Mass to the child who was known as the 'Boy in the Box' for 65 years, until his name was finally revealed last month.

The masses at St. Cecilia's in Fox Chase and St. Timothy's in Mayfair were offered for the repose of the soul of Joseph Augustus Zarelli.

"It's just nice to put some closure to someone that laid unknown for so many years," said Lina Dzwoniarek, who attended the service.

Zarelli's body was found beaten and bruised in a box, not far from Saint Cecilia's, in 1957. Since then, investigators never gave up trying to learn his identity and who killed him.

Everyone who gathered at the service on Wednesday, on what's known as the Feast of the Holy Innocents, was touched by his story.

"It breaks my heart that he had such a sad life," said Veronica Wendler, who attended the service.

"He was a young boy, just 4 years old. Left to die," said Ben Redmond, the commissioner of the Vidocq Society, who helped uncover his identity.

He was quick to point out that this case is still not closed.

RELATED: Philadelphia police identify child known as the 'Boy in the Box'

"It doesn't bring closure to the case because the investigation by the Philadelphia police department continues," he said.

The priest, Father Christopher Walsh, echoed that sentiment during the service. His homily highlighted all the children who still suffer today, and that it took people caring to find out Zarelli's name.

"We are grateful for a name. We are grateful for a birthdate. We're grateful for an identity," Father Walsh said. "We live in the hope that one day no children will suffer as you did."

A new headstone will be placed at Zarelli's grave at Ivy Hill Cemetery on Jan. 13. That would have been his 70th birthday.