YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Etan Patz case: FBI, police dig up SoHo site; boy vanished in '79

April 19, 2012|By Tina Susman
  • This undated file image provided by Stanley K. Patz shows a flyer distributed by the New York Police Department of Patz's son, Etan. The boy vanished on May 25, 1979, and has never been found.
This undated file image provided by Stanley K. Patz shows a flyer distributed… (New York Police Department…)

Police and FBI agents Thursday were pursuing a possible new lead in the disappearance of Etan Patz, the little boy whose disappearance from a Manhattan street more than 30 years ago ushered in the use of milk cartons to publicize the plight of missing children and left the nation with one of its most haunting mysteries.

New York police spokesman Paul Browne confirmed that officials planned to dig at a site in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood, near where Etan was last seen on May 25, 1979. The 6-year-old had left his apartment to walk to his school bus stop, the first time his parents had permitted him to make the walk alone. He never made it to school and was never seen by his family again.

By noon Thursday, the scene outside the Prince Street building whose basement was to be searched was a hive of police and curiosity-seekers, some of whom remembered the fear that ran through the neighborhood after Etan's disappearance. Etan was declared legally dead in 2001, but nobody has been charged in the case.

One focus of investigators was convicted sex offender Jose Antonio Ramos, who is in prison for sexually molesting two boys. He knew Etan through one of his baby-sittersĀ  but denied knowing anything about the boy's disappearance. Investigators grilled Ramos about the case, but to no avail; they ultimately decided that, without a confession, they couldn't charge him.

The case was reopened in 2010 by Manhattan's new district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr.

The case was a catalyst for elevating public awareness of missing children. Etan's face was the first missing child's to be featured on the side of a milk carton, and May 25, the day he disappeared, was designated National Missing Children's Day.

Police expect the search in SoHo to take several days.


Anders Breivik: Norway mass killer has U.S. pen pal

Texas nurse accused of killing new mom appears in court

Dick Clark: Entertainment icon was also a hero to stroke victims

Los Angeles Times Articles