Authorities search in April for remains of Etan Patz. Their search focused… (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles…)
New York police on Thursday had someone in custody in connection with one of the city's and country's most gripping missing-child cases: that of Etan Patz, a 6-year-old boy who vanished off a Manhattan street in 1979 on his way to school.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly released a brief statement early Thursday saying: "An individual now in custody has made statements to NYPD detectives implicating himself in the disappearance and death of Etan Patz 33 years ago. We expect to provide further details later today." The news came one day before the anniversary of Etan's May 25, 1979, disappearance.
The announcement comes a month after police and FBI agents returned to the Greenwich Village street where Etan was last seen and dug up the floor of a building he would have passed on his way to the bus stop that morning -- the first time his mother and father had let him walk to the bus stop alone.
His face became one of the earliest to be placed on the side of milk cartons as advocates used the mystery to galvanize national efforts to call attention to the problem of missing children.
"The disappearance of Etan Patz marked the birthplace of a movement," said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, in April as the latest search was underway. After that search, police said they had found nothing to indicate human remains.
No one was ever charged in the case. One investigator and Etan's father, Stan Patz, became convinced that a convicted sex offender whose girlfriend baby-sat for Etan was responsible. In 2004, a civil court ruled that the man, Jose Antonio Ramos, was responsible for Etan's death, though criminal charges never were filed. Ramos, who is serving time in a Pennsylvania prison for child molestation, has denied involvement in Etan's disappearance.
Etan eventually was declared legally dead.