Never forgotten: Nicholas Kerschbaum stands in front of a memorial for America’s Unknown Child. TOM WARING / TIMES PHOTO
Dozens of people gathered on Sunday afternoon in Fox Chase for a memorial service marking the 60th anniversary of the death of America’s Unknown Child, formerly known as the Boy in the Box.
Nicholas Kerschbaum, a Troop 522 Boy Scout who is the son of a retired Philadelphia police officer, has chosen the case of America’s Unknown Child for his Eagle Scout Project. The 16-year-old from Delaware, a junior at Salesianum School, has petitioned the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, seeking the erection of a historical marker on the 700 block of Susquehanna Road, near the location where the boy’s remains were found.
Supporting the teenager is the Vidocq Society, a private organization of law enforcement and forensic professionals who try to crack tough cases.
On Feb. 26, 1957, Philadelphia Police Officer Elmer Palmer was dispatched to then-rural Susquehanna Road, where he discovered the body of a boy believed to be about 4 years old. The boy was in a cardboard box that once contained a bassinet bought at the JCPenney at 69th and Chestnut streets in Upper Darby.
Since the time of his murder, no one has ever come forward to identify the boy and the police investigation into his murder has never been solved.
“The case it not closed,” Kerschbaum said.
Olney’s Mann Funeral Home buried America’s Unknown Child in Potter’s Field along Dunks Ferry Road and assisted in his move to West Oak Lane’s Ivy Hill Cemetery.
“He’s now buried with dignity and love,” Kerschbaum said.
At Sunday’s service, Kerschbaum had a display that included a copy of the poster outlining the crime, with Police Commissioner Thomas J. Gibbons urging witnesses or anyone else with information to call MU6–9700.
Many years later, the story was chronicled on America’s Most Wanted and dramatized on Cold Case.
Bill Fleisher, a retired FBI and U.S. Customs agent and commissioner of the Vidocq Society, is still saddened by the boy’s death.
“His potential was never realized. His life was snuffed out by neglect or murder,” he said.
Fleisher praises Kerschbaum’s efforts.
“It warms my heart to see a young man think enough of America’s Unknown Child. It’s a Herculean effort to get a state plaque. I’m very proud of him. He makes the Boy Scouts and young men look good,” he said.
Fleisher remains hopeful that the boy will be identified and a suspect named.
“We still get leads and have some possible DNA of relatives in the pipeline,” he said. “It’s going to be DNA or someone coming forward.” ••