PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — All across our region there are thousands of unsolved mysteries. It takes just one memory or tip that could help close one of these cold cases and bring closure for both families and detectives who’ve vowed to never give up hope.
We kick off our new series, CBS3 Mysteries, with Philadelphia’s most notorious cold case: the boy in the box.
A 6-year-old boy’s body was found in February 1957 in the Fox Chase section of the city. Now 64 years later, we may be the closest yet to learning who America’s unknown child may be.
Ivy Hill Cemetery on the outskirts of Northwest Philadelphia is the final resting place for hundreds. Opposite the front gate, the first grave you see carries with it a deep mystery — this is the final resting place for “The Boy in the Box.”
Trinkets and flowers are left for the late 6-year-old victim. Cemetery workers meticulously care for the space that feels extra sacred.
“Be great to know who we’re putting the flowers out for,” one man said.
He, for now, remains the boy without a name.
“That’s the biggest mystery right now,” Det. Sgt. Bob Kuhlmeier with the Philadelphia Police Homicide Unit Special Investigations said
His identity coldly tied to the detail his battered remains were found in a box in February 1957.
“Who is the child? What is his name?” Kuhlmeier said. “Can we at least give him a name?”
Kuhlmeier, a veteran homicide detective, has kept the investigation alive. The elusive nature of the case haunts him. Kuhlmeier remembers growing up in Fox Chase and at 10 years old, hearing about the boy who was found along Susquehanna Road in a box.
“Cause of death is listed as blunt force trauma,” he said. “He appeared to be cleaned and freshly groomed with a haircut.”
Homicide Capt. Jason Smith says there’s something about the Boy in the Box case that must be solved.
“This is one of those cases,” Smith said. “It’s going to continue to gnaw at you.”
Philadelphia homicide detectives two years ago got an order to exhume the remains of the Boy in the Box. What they were able to retrieve this time for DNA purposes was sent to a lab in Europe that now has given them their biggest break yet.
“This is the closest, this is the closest we have gotten,” Smith said of being able to find out the boy’s name.
Police now have a DNA profile they hope leads them to family members of the little boy. Investigators say this gives them a new direction.
“Might there still be witnesses around? There could be,” Smith said. “Absolutely. Might there still be a perpetrator around that’s still alive? Possibly. Could be.”
These detectives are on the doorstep of what can only be hoped to be the break that’s kept them up at night wondering what the name of The Boy in the Box is.
“It’s always on my mind,” Smith said. “We owe it to the child. We owe it to their family members.”