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  • J. Sutton

The Identity of the Boy in the Box Revealed

By J. Sutton & V. Hart

Over the last 100 years technological advancements in science mean that criminal investigation techniques have also advanced.


Forensic science and the earliest practices can be dated back to 3500 BC in an unlikely place. The Mesopotamians performed animal autopsies in order to better communicate with the Gods and gain a greater understanding of medicine. They believed “disease was regarded in an animistic fashion, that is, controlled by Gods or spiritual forces” – Burton (2005)


By the late 1980's we were able to solve some cases through DNA analysis, but not all, this was a game changer it meant that cases where only DNA could identify perpetrators could now be re- looked at. With the introduction of the combined DNA Index System (CODIS) in 1990 there was now a database to store the DNA samples that were found at crime scenes or ones added to the system after the police make an arrest.


As fantastic as this was it had its limitations, information added to CODIS is taken only from the criminal population that have been arrested and booked into a police station. Or from samples found at crime scenes of unidentified persons. Which means when you run a check to match the DNA of an unidentified person with an identity you would only get a match if the person in question had been arrested previously.


Since these curious beginnings we have come leaps and bounds. Forensic science is now being used to solve decade old mysteries such as that of the ‘Boy in the box’. Previously as discussed access to DNA to solve unidentified persons cases was only effective on CODIS when a criminal record was present. Now however things have changed, with private ancestry companies investing in their own DNA databases. These companies offer the general public the chance to have their DNA samples sent to them and analysed. They do this for the purpose of identifying their long lost family members or their family historical heritage. This now means there are databases with DNA samples that extended outside of criminal databases, ones that can be run against the samples of unidentified people. This means that the chances of getting a match have increased.


This is the case with the discovery of the Boy in the Boxes identity Philadelphia Police colleagues held a press conference today which finally revealed who the boy in the box was. Speaking live they announced Joseph Augustus Zarelli now has his name back.






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