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Search for Etan Patz ends -- with no obvious leads

April 23, 2012|By Tina Susman
  • The search for remains of Etan Patz, a 6-year-old boy who went missing 33 years ago, has apparently come to an end.
The search for remains of Etan Patz, a 6-year-old boy who went missing 33… (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles…)

This post has been corrected. See note at the bottom for details.

NEW YORK -- The search for the remains of Etan Patz, the 6-year-old boy whose disappearance from a Manhattan street 33 years ago put the plight of missing and abducted children under a national spotlight, ended Monday with the mystery of Etan's fate still unresolved.

"There was no obvious sign of human remains found at this location," New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said as FBI agents and police began dismantling the metal barricades blocking people from a stretch of Prince Street in SoHo, where Etan was last seen on May 25, 1979, as he headed for his school bus stop.

Some rubble from a basement dug up by investigators, including the concrete floor and a dark stain that initially tested negative for human blood, will undergo further tests, and Browne said the investigation remains open and a "missing person case."

But the failure of the dig to yield any solid evidence seemed to leave investigators and Etan's parents, Stan and Julie Patz, no closer to learning who was responsible for the boy's disappearance despite new attention on a handyman who had a workshop in the basement that was just excavated.

FBI agents have spoken to the man, Othniel Miller, who is now 75 and lives in Brooklyn. He was never called a suspect, and his attorney, Michael Farkas, on Monday said his client's name had been "dragged through the mud" in recent days by the media frenzy surrounding the latest search.

"He has been charged with no crime," Farkas told the local ABC affiliate, WABC, in an interview Monday. "No evidence whatsoever links him to this terrible tragedy."

Etan's parents, who still live in the building where they lived with Etan, did not immediately comment on the latest developments. After the search began, they posted a note on their doorbell saying in part "No comment" and asking to be left alone. The apartment is a block from the search site.

Interest in the case was renewed in 2010 when the newly elected Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., reopened the investigation. Interviews with people, including Miller, who had been acquainted with Etan led to the focus on the basement, which was searched 33 years ago but not excavated. Over the years, some investigators and the Patz family came to believe that Jose Antonio Ramos, who is in prison on an unrelated child molestation charge, was responsible for Etan's disappearance. Ramos -- due to be released from prison in November -- denied involvement.

However, a Manhattan civil court judge in 2004 ruled that Ramos was to blame for abducting and killing Etan, who was declared legally dead in 2001.

For the record, 5:38 p.m. April 23: An earlier version of this post said the Patz apartment is in the same block as the search site. It is in the next block.


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