PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — For 65 years, the nation has waited for investigators to determine the identity of the boy who has become known as America’s Unknown Child or “The Boy in the Box.” Now we know that child was Joseph Auguste Zarelli.

Investigators used modern forensic techniques, including forensic genetic genealogy, also known as investigative genealogyto identify Zarelli.

Ryan Gallagher, head of the forensic science unit of the Philadelphia Police Department’s Bureau of Forensic Sciences, explained Thursday how this DNA processing differs from typical processing.

“With typical DNA processing, our lab scientists examined 24 areas along the DNA to develop a profile. Thanks to advances in DNA technology, it is possible to examine thousands of areas along your DNA. For the standard DNA analysis, which we do every day, this expanded test is not necessary. However, the analysis of this additional DNA has created a new ability to investigate cases in revealing potential family relationships.This growing field is often referred to as genealogy or investigative genealogy.

A review of Zarelli’s case to apply modern forensic technology was deemed a success as investigators were finally close to naming the child and unraveling a decades-old mystery surrounding his identity.

Zarelli is just one of the cold cases investigators are working on – and for those wondering if they’re using these forensic techniques to solve other mysteries, the answer is yes.

Philadelphia Police Captain Jason Smith wants the public to know that investigators “absolutely” use these efforts to solve crimes.

“There is an ongoing effort to apply the technology and techniques used in this investigation to other cases of unknown human remains,” Smith said. “These investigations relate to victims of homicide, cases deemed suspicious, as well as accidental or natural causes.”

A team of investigators from multiple units of the Philadelphia Police Department are working with the Bureau of Forensic Sciences, the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office to review and identify cases that would benefit from the application of modern forensic techniques to the investigation. .

Smith adds that there are currently over a dozen cases in progress right now with more being added as leads develop.

There are currently over a dozen cases in progress and as leads are developed they are pursued by investigators and dealt with by other members of the group.

Constance DeAngelo, Philadelphia’s chief medical examiner, says the technology has been brand new since 2017-18. In each case they solve using it, something new is learned and applied to subsequent cases.

“The oldest cases you’re going to find are 3-4 years old right now and haven’t been solved, but as the databases grow and our tools grow, and as we move forward with the technology, there will be a lot more. And it’s going to go a lot faster,” DeAngelo said.

On April 24, 2019, a court order was obtained for Zarelli’s remains to be re-exhumed in an attempt to collect DNA. Forensic anthropologist Dr. Washburn examined the remains and was able to obtain the amount of DNA required to apply modern forensic techniques.

With the help of genealogists, genealogy and DNA records were used and initially matched Zarelli to relatives on his biological mother’s side. Further investigation leads detectives to possible relatives on Zarelli’s paternal side.

Both of the child’s parents are deceased and investigators will not release the names of Zarelli’s relatives at this time.

CBS3 closely followed the investigation and kept the case on TV and online for decades. Last week, CBS3 Investigations was the first to break that the police had finally identified the boy.

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