biographical data

Joseph Augustus Zarelli biography: 10 things about Philadelphia, Pennsylvania boy

Joseph Augustus Zarelli was an American boy of Italian descent. Here are 10 more things about him:

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  1. His father Augustus John “Gus” Zarelli was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States to Agostino Di Michele Zarelli and Jennie Giovannina Saraco Zarelli. Both Agostino and Jennie were born in Italy.
  2. His mother Mary Elizabeth “Betsy” Abel Plunkett was born in Philadelphia to John Robertson Abel Sr. and Mary Jane Bunn Abel. John was born in Alabama, USA while Mary was born in Pennsylvania.
  3. On February 25, 1957, he was found dead on the side of Susquehanna Road in Philadelphia. He had a recent haircut, trimmed fingernails and multiple bruises on his naked, malnourished body, which was wrapped in a plaid blanket and placed inside a cardboard box that had once contained a bassinet. He died at age 4. The cause of death was homicide by blunt force trauma.
  4. On February 26, 1957, the Philadelphia Police Department opened an investigation and took his fingerprints. His identity became a mystery and he was dubbed the Boy in the Box.
  5. Originally buried in a potter’s field, he was reburied at Ivy Hill Cemetery in Cedarbrook, Philadelphia in 1998. That year, his body was exhumed for the purpose of extracting deoxyribonucleic acid, which was obtained from a tooth. When first installed, the large headstone contained the words “America’s Unknown Child”.
  6. In 2019, his body was exhumed again to retrieve additional DNA samples.
  7. In October 2021, genealogists uncovered his name.
  8. On November 30, 2022, the Philadelphia Police Department announced that detectives had determined his identity using deoxyribonucleic acid and genealogical databases.
  9. On December 8, 2022, the Philadelphia Police Department publicly announced his full name during a press conference.
  10. On January 13, 2023, a new memorial containing his full name and image was unveiled. On January 19, 2023, his parents’ names were revealed by The Philadelphia Inquirer.
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