Wednesday, January 12, 2011

How could no one claim a child?

More than 50 years ago, the naked and badly bruised body of a young boy was found in a cardboard box in a wooded area north of Philadelphia.
Since that day, not only has no one been charged in connection with his death, but he has never been identified.
And not for lack of trying.
David Stout chronicles the lengths to which a dedicated band of law enforcement professionals have worked to give the child an identity in "The Box in the Box: The Unsolved Case of America's Unknown Child."
The 1950s America that exists in my mind was not an era of child abuse or child cruelty. 
The reality of that time as Stout recounts was far different:
Desperate parents struggling to feed too many children
Depraved individuals doing the unspeakable
Unwed teens terrified to acknowledge a birth
    In short, not all that different from today, just perhaps not as openly discussed in society.
    None of which makes the tale of the boy in the box any less heart-wrenching.
    How could no one have claimed him? Are the folks who've come forward in the decades since telling the truth? Have we as a society learned any lessons from this and other similar cases?
    Stout weaves other cases into his narrative from the development of aged facial reconstruction that led to the arrest of John Emil List more than 15 years after he killed his family to Northeast Ohio's own Baby Grace, Riley Sawyers, found in the waters off Galveston and recognized by a grandmother here. Positive advances all, but not enough to give this child an identity.
    Stout, a veteran journalist, delivers a riveting account not only of a case that haunts those who've investigated it but one that captured the hearts of a nation.
    A site has been created by one of those folks touched by the boy's fate. It features updates on the case and elements including the original poster, shown above, that was distributed to law enforcement in 1957.
    - Tricia Ambrose

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