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A facial reconstruction image of the unidentified child whose remains were found in a blue metal box in Greece, New York in 1976. (Image: Courtesy of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)

The skeleton of a child was found in a blue metal box in 1976, in the basement storage area of an upstate New York apartment complex most frequented by transients.

The local police could only determine so much from the bones four decades ago. No one remembered the boy at the complex, especially since he had been dumped there a year before, or even earlier. They didn’t even know for sure whether the child was a boy or girl.

But when a local Greece, New York police sergeant was recently assigned the case, he decided to leverage the latest 21st century resources by reaching out the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Now investigators have DNA, a gender, a facial reconstruction and some unique details of the boy’s short life story—as determined by forensic science—in an effort to determine who he was, and how he died.

“We’ve come leaps and bounds from 1976 in being able to apply today’s knowledge, today’s resources and today’s technology to get a much better understanding of who this little child is, and the condition he was in at the time of his death,” said Carol Schweitzer, senior forensic case specialist at NCMEC.

The metal box in which the child's skeletal remains were found. (Photo: Courtesy of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)

The child was originally reported as a girl, and an infant, due to the small and brittle bones, and the tiny plastic diaper and pajamas on the remains.

But DNA testing determined the child was really a boy, and was really between the ages of 3 and 5, according to the latest tests.

Another telling detail: the boy’s skull had a visible bulge at the back left part of the head. The abnormality would have likely prevented the boy from growing normally, both physically and mentally—and the boy was probably unable to walk and spent a lot of time on his back.

“There’s a lot of details that will capture the public’s attention, and will be able to help … He’s unique, especially with the skull abnormality,” said Schweitzer. “(The public’s) not going to be reporting the boy next door who’s running down the street with their neighbors, riding bicycles. We know that’s not this child.”

The cause of the skull bulge is not certain—but the detectives are consulting with pediatric neurologists and forensic anthropologists to determine the underlying medical condition.

The child was also severely malnourished and neglected during his life, according to the condition of the bones.

Another advanced forensic test sheds a bit more light on the boy’s likely movements. Isotope analysis of heavy and stable elements, like oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, lead and strontium in the bones and teeth, can determine what water someone drank—and therefore the geographic location of where they lived. The unknown boy had not been in New York long in life—if at all. Instead, he lived his first years in the Northwestern part of the U.S., before moving all the way to the Southeast for the latter part of his short life. The analysis was done by some of the foremost anthropology and chemistry experts at the University of South Florida and the University of Florida.

The face of the boy is also now available. The expert artists at NCMEC took the skull and reconstructed what the boy looked like in life. Sgt. Dave Mancuso, the Greece police detective leading the case, said in a video produced by NCMEC that the exploration of a face in life from the brittle bones of death was “absolutely amazing.”

“To see this young boy looking back at me, makes me want to solve this crime that much more,” said Mancuso.

Some of the other evidence has proven to be a dead end. The clothing and a tarp wrapped around the body were all commonly available in the U.S. at the time, mostly at large stores like Sears. Even the diaper pins were of a very common variety, Schweitzer said.

Still, Schweitzer said the chances of getting some kind of resolution in this case are better than in other cases that are decades old. For one, this child was never presented as a boy outside the Rochester, NY., area before. Together with the telling details, the tips from other parts of the country may just help crack the case.

“While the case is from 1976, this is the first time in decades that we’ve been able to put out information on this child,” she said. “It’s not like this is one that has just circulated over the years … This is the first time the public is being introduced to this child.”

Anyone with information about the boy, his life, his death, or further information about the unsolved Greece case are asked to call NCMEC at (800) THE-LOST.

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