More than seven decades after the case horrified San Diego and triggered calls for a crackdown on “all known degenerates,” the sheriff’s department declared Thursday it has solved the mysterious death of 7-year-old Dalbert Aphosian, The Mercury-News reports. When the boy’s mutilated body was found floating in San Diego Bay in July 1933, police concluded that he had been killed by a sex fiend. The coroner’s office made the same finding, and newspapers for weeks had blood-curdling headlines about a maniacal killer on the loose.The boy’s 9-year-old companion had told the police that he had fallen into the bay, but his version was not widely believed.
But the cold-case unit of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, after asking the current Medical Examiner’s office to review detailed autopsy pictures, concluded that the boy accidentally drowned and his body was mutilated by marine life. “This was an unfortunate case of someone who fell into the water while playing,” said Dr. Jonathan Lucas, deputy medical examiner. Since 1933 pathologists have learned a great deal more about what bodies look like after being submerged in water and attacked by marine life, Lucas said. “This is a classic case,” he said.