New headstone at Philly cemetery honors victim known for decades as the 'Boy in the Box'

His identity remained unknown until Dec. 8. 2022, when officials held a news conference confirming he was Joseph Zarelli.

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Friday, January 13, 2023
New headstone honors victim known for decades as the 'Boy in the Box'
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Jan. 13, 2023, would have been Joseph Augustus Zarelli's 70th birthday.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A community gathered Friday to remember the victim of one of Philadelphia's most high-profile unsolved murders.

Jan. 13, 2023, would have been Joseph Augustus Zarelli's 70th birthday.

But last month, authorities confirmed Zarelli was the young victim known for decades as the "Boy in the Box."

The boy's naked, badly bruised body was found on Feb. 25, 1957, in a wooded area of Philadelphia's Fox Chase neighborhood.

The boy, who was 4 years old, had been wrapped in a blanket and placed inside a large JCPenney bassinet box. Police say he was malnourished. He'd been beaten to death.

His identity remained unknown until Dec. 8, 2022, when officials held a news conference confirming he was Zarelli.

Joseph Augustus Zarelli
Philadelphia Police Department

RELATED: Genealogist who helped identify 'Boy in the Box' visits grave, seeks justice for child

"This announcement only closes one chapter in this little boy's story while opening up a new one," Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said in December. "This is still an active homicide investigation and we still need the public's help in filling in this child's life story."

The ceremony at Ivy Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia's Cedarbrook neighborhood was held to dedicate a new headstone at the boy's final resting place.

The ceremony at Ivy Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia's Cedarbrook neighborhood was held to dedicate a new headstone at the boy's final resting place.

Zarelli was born on Jan. 13, 1953, and is believed to be from West Philadelphia.

Police said both of Zarelli's parents are dead, but he does have living relatives.

"Joseph has a number of siblings on both the mother and father side who are living and it's out of respect for them that their parents' information remain confidential," Philadelphia Captain Jason Smith said in December.

The case remains one of Philadelphia's oldest unsolved homicides. There is a $20,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction of a suspect in this case.

Smith said police do not know who is responsible for the child's death.

"We have our suspicions as to who may be responsible but it would be irresponsible of me to share these suspicions as this remains an ongoing and active criminal investigation," Smith said.