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Missing Boy: Etan Patz - NY - 05/25/1979

25 posts in this topic

First child on milk carton still missing 30 years later

May 13, 9:14 AM

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Age-progressed to 17 years

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Etan Patz was only six on May 25, 1979, when he convinced his parents to let him walk to the bus stop alone.  For a while, he had been arguing that all of his friends' parents allowed them to walk the few blocks by themselves, and they finally relented.  He was headed for school in the upscale Soho area of New York.

That afternoon his mother, Julie Patz, waited in vain for him to come home.  She called the school and then the homes of all his friends.  When no one had seen her son, she called police.  More than 100 officers and searchers with bloodhounds arrived and scoured the area for several weeks, but they were unable to find any trace of the boy.

Etan's disappearance sparked the nation's awareness of child abduction and led to an increased public focus on missing children.  Authorities tried new approaches to searching for abducted children, and Etan's picture was the first of many to appear on the back of a milk carton in the mid-1980s.

Etan's parents still hold out hope that he is alive, although they realize the chances are slim.

While no conclusive evidence in the boy's disappearance has ever been found, a drifter named Jose Antonio Ramos is considered the primary suspect.

Ramos was arrested in 1982 after several young boys from the Bronx complained that he had stolen their backpacks while attempting to lure them into a large drainpipe under a bridge, where he was living.  Police found Ramos in the drainpipe, along with numerous photograhs of young blond boys, all of whom resembled Etan Patz.

When questioned, Ramos denied any involvement in Patz's disappearance, but he did mention that his girlfriend had babysat for Etan in the past.  Investigators followed this lead, but decided that they did not have enough evidence to charge Ramos with Etan's killing.  He was released from custody after the parents of the Bronx boys declined to press charges.

Investigators still believe they are considering the right suspect, but prosecutors say that without a body, there is no cause to bring charges and little likelihood of a conviction.

The NYPD considers Etan's abduction a cold case.  

Anyone with information on Etan's possible whereabouts or the person responsible for his disappearance should call the NYPD tip line at 1-800-577-TIPS.

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Boy on milk carton still missing after 30 years

updated 6:07 p.m. EDT, Wed May 13, 2009

By Rupa Mikkilineni

Nancy Grace Producer

NEW YORK (CNN) -- His was the first photo of a missing child to appear on a milk carton. Almost 30 years later, Etan Patz is still missing.

Etan Patz, 6, disappeared while walking to a school bus stop. It was the first time he'd gone alone.

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Etan was 6 when he disappeared on May 25, 1979, the Friday before Memorial Day. He was on his way to school in what is now the upscale Soho neighborhood of New York.

It was the first time he'd walked to the bus stop by himself. It was just a few blocks away. Etan, like any 6-year-old, argued that all of his friends walked to the bus stop alone, and his parents relented.

His mother, Julie Patz, learned that Etan hadn't been in classes when he failed to return home. She called the school at 3:30 p.m., then called the homes of all his friends. When no one had seen Etan, she called police and filed a missing person's report.

By evening more than 100 police officers and searchers had gathered with bloodhounds. The search continued for weeks, but no clues to Etan's whereabouts were found. Video Watch an update on the case »

The boy's disappearance was one of the key events that inspired the missing children's movement, which raised awareness of child abductions and led to new ways to search for missing children. Etan's case was the first of the milk carton campaigns of the mid-1980s.

"In our minds there were only two possibilities," said Stan Patz, the boy's father. "Either Etan was taken by a stranger and killed or he was taken by a very sad woman desperate for a child of her own, and we hoped that such a woman would at least take care of him and keep him safe."

Patz lived with this hope until 1982, when he learned of Jose Antonio Ramos' arrest and the surprising connection between him and a former babysitter of Etan's.

Ramos was a drifter who in 1979 lived in Alphabet City, a neighborhood not far from Soho. In 1982 he was arrested after boys in a neighborhood in the Bronx complained that he had stolen their book bags while trying to coax them into a drainpipe under a bridge, where he lived, said the Patzes and federal prosecutor Stuart GraBois, who spent years investigating the case.

When police found Ramos in his drainpipe home, they found he had many photographs of small blond boys. They noticed that they looked a lot like Etan Patz, according to author Lisa R Cohen's book about the case, "After Etan: The Missing Child Case that Held America Captive."

Bronx police questioned Ramos, and he denied having anything to do with Etan's disappearance. But he did tell police that his girlfriend used to baby-sit for the boy, GraBois said.

Prosecutors in the Bronx and Manhattan pursued this lead, but concluded they did not have enough evidence to connect Ramos to Etan's disappearance, GraBois and a spokesperson for the Manhattan District Attorney's Office said.

Ramos was released when the parents of the Bronx boys chose not to press charges against him, according to published reports. He left town and disappeared for six years -- until GraBois reviewed Etan's case. GraBois said he focused on Ramos as the prime suspect.

GraBois said he learned in 1988 that Ramos had been arrested and convicted of child molestation and was serving time in a Pennsylvania prison.

GraBois said he brought Ramos to New York for questioning and surprised him with the question: "How many times did you have sex with Etan Patz?"

Ramos told GraBois that he'd taken a little boy to an apartment he had on the lower East Side on the same day that Etan went missing. "He was 90 percent sure it was the same he'd seen in the news that was missing," GraBois said.

According to GraBois, Ramos claimed he released the boy and brought him to a subway station so the boy could go visit his aunt in Washington Heights.

"Etan did not have an aunt in Washington Heights," GraBois said. When questioned further, Ramos refused to say anything more and asked for a lawyer, according to GraBois.

Ramos is serving a 10- to 20-year prison sentence in Pennsylvania. He is scheduled to be released in November 2012, GraBois said.

GraBois said he had Ramos transferred to a federal prison, and planted informants as his cell mates. He wouldn't go into detail about what Ramos might have told them, but said he's convinced he's eyeing the right suspect.

GraBois turned over his evidence to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, but prosecutors have not brought charges. They say that without a body, they don't have enough evidence.


Etan's case is still considered by the NYPD to be a cold case.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Etan Patz or that leads to the arrest and conviction of the individual responsible for his disappearance is asked to call the FBI/NYPD Etan Patz hotline: 212-384-2200.

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Erika Lyn Smith

BellaOnline's Missing and Exploited Children Editor

Missing and Exploited Children Site

Etan Patz

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan declared May 25, National Missing Children’s Day. The same day six-year-old Etan Patz disappeared from lower Manhattan New York 1979. The six-year-old disappeared less than two blocks from the loft his family called home on the way to the bus stop. That fateful day was the first time Etan Patz walked to his bus stop alone, and he seemed to disappear into thin air.

Etan Patz is one of the first children to bring strong focus to the cause of missing children, and the search for Etan Patzs never stopped, due mostly to the dedication of Etan’s father, Stanley Patz. Stan Patz is a photographer, who continues to keep his son’s picture circulating in the media. Not that anyone who has seen Etan’s photograph could forget the tousle haired blue-eyed little boy.

Jose Antonio Ramos is a convicted child sexual predator who knew Etan’s nanny. He has told police he had a young boy in his apartment the day Etan Patz disappeared, but later made it clear he let the boy go without hurting him. Yet, several of the men who were Jose Antonio Ramos prison cellmates have talked to authorities about what the pedophile told them, which includes killing Etan. Regardless, of who has said what or when or where, Etan Patz is still missing.

Jose Antonio Ramos is serving a twenty-year sentence for molesting an eight-year-old boy in the late eighties. His sentence ends in three years, in 2012. He will be 69 years old. No one knows for sure how many children he may have violated, as Jose Antonio Ramos has a long broken criminal arrest record across many states, he was a drifter, and often homeless.

Stan and Julia Patz believe this man is the man who took Etan, yet police do not have sufficient evidence to charge Jose Ramos with any crimes related to the disappearance of Etan Patz. The Patzs had New York Courts declare Etan deceased, and have sued Jose Antonio Ramos for the wrongful death of their son. The courts awarded the Patz $2 million dollars.

The Patz’s have said the lawsuit is only to find out what happened to their son, yet Jose Antonio Ramos has refused to provide any clear-cut answers about Etan Patz’s disappearance. Stan Patz told ABC’s 60 Minutes II in an interview that every year he sends Etan’s missing children poster to Jose Antonio Ramos on May 25 the day Etan Patz disappeared and October 9 Etan’s birthday. On the back of the picture he always pens, “What have you done with my son?â€Â

Perhaps one-day when Etan is found, his family, the State of New York, and America will finally know what happened to the beautiful blonde haired blue eyes six year old that walked out of his home and disappeared into thin air. If you have any information on the disappearance of Etan Patz please contact your local FBI, or law enforcement, or go to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)website and turn in a cyber tip, you may remain anonymous.

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Etan Patz

DOB:  Oct 9, 1972

Missing:  May 25, 1979

Height:  3'4" (102 cm)

Eyes:  Blue

Race: White

Age at disappearance:  7

Sex:  Male

Weight:  50 lbs (23 kg)

Hair:  Lt. Brown

Missing From:

New York, New York

United States  

Etan's photo is shown age-progressed to 17 years. He was last seen at 8 a.m. at Prince and Wooster Streets going to the school bus stop. He was wearing a black cap, a blue corduroy jacket, blue pants, blue sneakers and carrying a blue bag with elephants on it.

Contact Information:

New York Police Department (New York)


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Sunday, May 3rd 2009, 4:00 AM

BY Larry Mcshane

Thirty years ago this month, 6-year-old Etan Patz left his SoHo apartment to catch a bus. It was the blond-haired, blue-eyed boy's first solo trip to school.

He never returned. Despite a national outcry and a likely suspect, no one has ever been charged with a crime in the case.

The long-lost boy's father now hopes that will change, with the imprisoned pedophile he blames for abducting and killing his son finally brought to long-delayed justice.

"This might be our last, best shot," said Stanley Patz, breaking a long silence about the case that forever altered the nation's consciousness about missing children.

"This is about keeping the bastard behind bars. This has nothing to do with revenge. I almost feel nothing toward or against this man. But he should never be a free man."

Jose Ramos, the boyfriend of Etan's baby-sitter, is doing time for molesting two boys in Pennsylvania. He's up for release in November 2012 - a thought Patz finds repugnant.

Patz's renewed hope for keeping Ramos behind bars comes from Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau's decision to retire at the end of the year.

Morgenthau, who was district attorney when Etan vanished, never brought NYPD Case No. 836 before a grand jury. His office maintained there wasn't enough evidence, frustrating the Patz family.

Former federal prosecutor Stuart GraBois, a friend and adviser to the family, has long maintained the proof is there to indict and try Ramos. Patz acknowledges it's a tough case, but believes it's worth an effort.

"Is it a slam dunk? Nothing is in this world," said Patz. "But it is what it is. Over the years, I think there's enough convincing facts to get an indictment."

Three of the candidates vying to replace Morgenthau say they're willing to try: the incumbent's choice, Cyrus Vance Jr., along with former judge Leslie Crocker Snyder and Richard Aborn.

Patz is buoyed by the prospect of a new prosecutor and hopes the upcoming 30th anniversary of Etan's disappearance and a new book, "After Etan: The Missing Child Case That Held America Captive," will spur a public outcry against Ramos.

"We're hoping to get a bunch of New Yorkers up in arms saying, 'Hang the bastard!'" Patz said. "Get the pitchforks out."

Etan was snatched on May 25, 1979, in the two blocks between his home and the bus stop. Ramos has acknowledged trying to molest the boy that morning, but denied killing him.

The case still resonates in many ways.

May 25 has since become "National Missing Children's Day," and photos of missing kids began appearing on milk cartons soon after Etan was abducted.

Stanley Patz and his wife, Julia, have battled Ramos in court before. Five years ago, a Manhattan judge ruled in a wrongful death suit that Ramos was responsible for Etan's slaying.

In February 2005, the lost boy's parents were awarded $2 million - a way of insuring that the now 65-year-old Ramos would never profit from the Patz case.

The family, after 22 painful years of waiting, had Etan declared legally dead in 2001. It was part of a legal strategy forcing Ramos to answer questions under oath.

Admitting their son was dead was a devastating event for the once-hopeful parents. Some people continue to believe the boy, who would now be a grown man, is out there.

"We still come across people who are hoping for us, praying we are going to get him back," Patz said. "I don't think that's going to happen."

Unlike TV crime shows, where the killers are tracked down in 60 minutes, Patz and his wife have lived with this case for 30 years.

"It's difficult to live a normal life and still be so closely identified with this particular tragedy," Patz said. "I'm much more hopeful that this year, we're finally going to get an indictment against this man."

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One arrest, more cold cases to solve

By Rupa Mikkilineni, Nancy Grace Producer

November 5, 2009 1:00 p.m. EST

New York (CNN) -- The photographs are haunting: a toddler with huge, saucer eyes; a teenager smiling shyly; a middle-aged couple; a freckle-faced Little Leaguer.

A year ago, the Cold Case feature was launched to bring a fresh look at unsolved cases that Nancy Grace had covered. The aim was to pull these cases from their vaults, dust them off and refocus attention on them, reminding the public that police and families need help seeking justice and closure.

Through the year, the definition of a cold case evolved beyond high-profile ones such as Natalee Holloway and JonBenet Ramsey. A cold case involved anyone who vanished without a trace or was murdered, any time the police and family were left without an arrest or explanation.

Cold cases tell the stories of lives interrupted.

Although all of the nearly 50 cases featured over the past year have been special in some way and worthy of attention, a few stand out in hindsight.

Brianna Denison was the cold case that resulted in an arrest. Media coverage in September 2008 brought in the tip that led to a suspect.

Denison, 19, was visiting friends at the University of Nevada, Reno, and had crashed on the living room couch of an off-campus apartment. While she slept, someone crept into the apartment and abducted her. She was sexually assaulted and brutally strangled, and her body found weeks later in a snow-covered field a few miles away.

A month after her story was featured as a cold case, triggering a series of local stories, police in Reno, Nevada, made an arrest.

"Media coverage is absolutely essential for us," said Detective Adam Wygnanski, one of the lead investigators working the case for the Reno Police Department. "We finally got the break in the case we were looking for."

The tip came from a secret witness, who pointed police toward a suspect, James Michael Biela. According to police, the tipster saw photos of panties found near Denison's body and heard the description of the suspect's truck. She came forward, telling police she'd seen panties in a pickup belonging to a friend's boyfriend that resembled those in the photo.

Biela, 27, is in jail awaiting trial, set for February, on charges of kidnapping, rape and murder in the Denison case.

He also stands accused of raping another University of Nevada, Reno, student October 22, 2007, as she headed toward her car in a university parking garage. And he's charged with kidnapping and sexually assaulting a third student December 17.

Biela has pleaded not guilty in all three attacks. He could face the death penalty if convicted of murder in the Denison case.

But so many other cases remain unsolved, with family members living in hope of finding answers.

"There isn't a day that goes by we don't think about Chanel and pray they'll catch the people that did this to her," Lucita Petro-Nixon said of her daughter.

Petro-Nixon says she'll never forget Father's Day 2006, when her daughter left their Brooklyn, New York, home during the day to apply for a summer job at an Applebee's a few blocks away and never came back. The teen's body was found four days later, strangled and stuffed into a garbage bag left on the curb in front of a brownstone miles away.

There isn't a day that goes by we don't think about Chanel and pray they catch the people that did this to her.

--Lucita Petro-Nixon, mother

Etan Patz's case galvanized the missing children's movement, raising awareness of child abductions. The 6-year-old vanished one morning in 1979 while walking to his school bus stop in New York's SoHo neighborhood. It was the first time he set off on the trip by himself.

Etan became the iconic boy on the milk carton, one of the first children to be featured in that 1980s campaign. Thirty years later, the case remains an open investigation, with no official suspects.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 797,500 children are reported missing each year, about 2,000 children a day. Many of them are recovered quickly, and some of the reports involve parental abductions. But not all.

Of the nearly 50 cases featured in the past year, the vast majority have told the stories of missing young women and children. The cases get the most attention because the victims are most at risk.

Only a small percentage of cases fall into the category of stranger abductions, said Marc Klaas, president of Klaaskids Foundation, which he formed after the 1993 kidnapping and murder of his daughter, Polly. Of those abductions, Klaas added, two-thirds are children between the ages of 12 and 17, and 80 percent of those children are females.

"It's the victims of stranger abductions that are most at risk of injury, sexual assault or death," Klaas said, explaining the urgency to cover such stories.

Even the high-profile cases can be frustrating for the people left behind. Consider the 2005 disappearance of Natalee Holloway, 18, an Alabama high school senior, in Aruba.

Authorities have acknowledged that mistakes mistakes made early in the investigation brought it to a standstill.

Each year, Natalee's father, Dave Holloway, goes to Aruba with special equipment and a search team in hopes of finding his daughter. Despite years of effort, the case remains cold.

As the cold case feature enters its second year, there are more cases to uncover, more stories to be told. Focusing attention on investigations that have gone cold is exactly what police and the families of victims need to jump-start an investigation. Denison's case serves as a reminder of that.

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DA Vance reopens decades-old missing boy case

Updated at 06:01 AM today Jamie Roth

NEW YORK (WABC) -- It is a case that has gone unsolved for decades and remains one of the most notorious of its kind.

Now, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has reopened the case of Etan Patz, who vanished more than 30 years ago.

Patz was just 6 years old when he vanished from nearby the SoHo home where he lived with his parents. Decades later, the new DA is taking a fresh look at the case.

"At some point, he must have realized that things were going bad," dad Stan Patz told 20/20 last year.

Now, 31 years after his son's kidnapping, Stanley Patz has been told that the case has been reopened. In the 20/20 interview, Stanley expressed the same agony he felt all those years ago.

Etan's abduction during a short walk to the school bus stop on Prince Street made international headlines. He became the first missing child to appear on the side of a milk carton, and he was officially pronounced dead in 2001.

"I still gag with the fear that this child must've felt when he realized he was betrayed by an adult," Stanley said.

The prime suspect in the case, Jose Ramos, is in prison for molesting two boys. He was never convicted of kidnapping or harming Etan, but law enforcement found that he had some connection to the little boy, at one time living nearby and dating a woman who used to walk Etan to school.

Stuart Grabois, who worked on the case as an assistant U.S. attorney and is now an adviser to the Patz family, believes there is enough evidence to prove Ramos guilty. But Ramos has long professed his innocence in the Patz case.

"I have no comment on the Patz case whatsoever," Ramos said years ago. "I don't know anything that Grabois knows. Why don't you ask Grabois about it?"

Ramos was found responsible for Etan's death in a 2004 civil case. He was ordered to pay $2 million to the Patz family. They haven't seen a cent. Ramos is scheduled to be released from prison November 2012.

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50 people in 50 days: First milk carton case still unsolved

Etan Patz was last seen walking to a New York bus stop on May 25, 1979.

February 16th, 2011

06:41 PM ET

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Editor's note: Nancy Grace's new show on HLN, "Nancy Grace: America's Missing," is dedicated to finding 50 people in 50 days. As part of the effort, which relies heavily on audience participation,'s news blog This Just In will feature the stories of the missing.

This is the 23rd case, and it will be shown at 9 p.m. ET Wednesday on HLN.

More than 30 years after Etan Patz's face became the first of a missing child to appear on a milk carton, authorities still aren't sure what happened to him.

Etan was 6 when his parents finally gave him permission to walk to a school bus stop alone in New York City on May 25, 1979. The stop was just two blocks from his parents’ apartment.

The boy never made it to school that day. Police searched for the 6-year-old, from rooftops to basements, but nothing was immediately found.

In 1982, police identified Jose Antonio Ramos - a convicted child molester - as a suspect, but he has never been charged in  Etan’s case.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office said last year that it was taking another look at the case.

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NYPD close to finding Etan Patz remains?

April 21, 2012 9:34 AM

(CBS News) New York police may be getting close to finding the remains of Etan Patz, the six-year-old whose disappearance 33 years ago touched a nation.

When he vanished from a New York street on May 25, 1979, it sparked a national outcry over missing children.

Etan was the first missing child whose picture was put on the side of a milk carton.

President Reagan declared the day of Etan's disappearance "National Missing Children's Day."

Etan's disappearance "changed everything" about the way parents thought about keeping their children safe, author Lisa Cohen told "CBS This Morning" co-hosts Jeff Glor and Rebecca Jarvis.

Friday marked Day Two of a renewed search for clues in the case.

Cautious optimism in search for Etan Patz's remains

Investigators carried armfuls of concrete and rubble from an excavation site at a building in downtown Manhattan.

"We, along with (the New York Police Department), are going to be methodically going through the basement area, into the concrete, into the drywall, and looking for evidence," said FBI spokesperson Tim Flannelly. "We do have good probable cause to be here."

Investigators plan to continue digging in the basement through the beginning of next week, reports CBS This Morning Senior Correspondent John Miller.

The 33 year old case was reopened after cadaver dogs detected the scent of human remains at the site.

Seventy-five-year-old Othniel Miller used the space as a workshop back then. A neighborhood handyman, Miller knew Etan and his family. He denies any involvement with the child's disappearance.

"After this case," pointed out NYPD spokesperson Paul Browne, "there became a much more protective environment around children, generally."

This was the case that, years ago, made parents reassess places they once judged safe -- like their very own streets and neighborhoods, Miller notes.

The case was, says Cohen, the first "in a long, long time that just captured the imagination of, first this city, and then the rest of the country, and ultimately the world."

Cohen, author of "After Etan: the Missing Child Case that Held America Captive" and a former producer for CBS News and ABC News, said, "I think there was a time before Etan when kids played in the street and you walked to the bus stop by yourself, those two blocks, and then there was an after-Etan. After that, people knew that it could happen. And once you know that it can happen, then you think maybe it will happen. It changed everything.

"I think that, out of this case, and then a few very few high-profile cases that followed, a whole movement began. And there were congressional hearings, there were all kinds of initiatives for tracking children in a better way, and ultimately, things like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were created. So now, there's a new awareness.

"And there's some divisiveness about this. On the one hand people say, 'We know the risks now.' On the other hand, people say, 'We've taken away the freedom of our children. And people shouldn't be so nervous and worried and isolating."

The Patz family, Cohen says, is "very reserved. They've been through this for 33 years. They have seen so many cases, so many moments where the hopes were up, they've got the guy, you know, they've got the break in the case. And then it doesn't happen. So, you know, I think that -- I speak to Stan Patz, and I know he's grateful the New York district attorney has been willing to make this kind of commitment and put resources into this, but he's gonna wait and see."

To read the story and to see the complete John Miller report and Lisa Cohen interview, go to to view the video.

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Etan Patz: Search Ending With No Evidence of 6-Year-Old Boy


April 23, 2012

The latest chapter in the 33-year search for Etan Patz -- the digging up of a basement in NYC's SoHo District -- has ended with no human remains, no "aha" moment, and only a few reeds of possible evidence in the hundreds of pounds of debris now packed into dumpsters.

The bits of material -- some human hair, but not blonde hair like that of the young boy who vanished on his way to school, and a possible blood-stained bit of cinder block -- are being sent to the FBI forensic lab in Quantico, Va.

And today, according to authorities, will be a day for winding down the operation on Prince Street.

After the day's digging at around 3 p.m. Sunday, authorities met with the Patz family to inform them of the outcome of the search. They were told what had been found, and what, significantly, had not been found: human remains or other clear evidence that their son had been inside that basement prior to his disappearance.

Patz was 6 at the time he disappeared on the morning of May 25, 1979, soon after leaving his parents' apartment at 113 Prince St., the first time he was to walk to the school bus stop by himself. The boy's 1979 disappearance sparked a citywide search that decades later led authorities back to handyman Othniel Miller's small basement workshop, this time to excavate it after cadaver dogs detected the smell of human remains.

The possible evidence was discovered in the basement that was once used as a kids' play area, which doubled as the workspace of retired handyman Othniel Miller, now 75. Miller, according to authorities, was seen with Patz the night before he disappeared.

"The FBI has been here to investigate the case," Stephaine Miller, Othniel Miller's daughter, said. "He cooperated with them and went to the site and he doesn't have anything to do with it."

Miller has not been named a suspect in the Patz disappearance, but he has been questioned.

"Mr. Miller denies involvement with what has happened to this beautiful young boy," his attorney, Michael Farkas, said. "Mr. Miller has been cooperating with this investigation for over 30 years."

He added, "Just as we recently witnessed in the Treyvon Martin case, people with access to unconfirmed information about the Etan Patz investigation have leaked those secrets to the news media for their own inappropriate purposes. Random bits of uncorroborated information and supposition, the types of which law enforcement hopes will lead to actual competent evidence, serve no purpose in the public domain other than to skew public opinion and malign unfortunate individuals who cannot effectively respond."

Since the boy's 1979 disappearance, a man named Jose Ramos, who is a convicted child molester, has been considered the prime suspect, although he has denied any connection.

Etan Patz disappearance without a trace and was one of the first major missing child cases to receive national attention. Although he was never found, the images of the boy were never forgotten. The boy's parents never changed their phone number, and told ABC News two years ago that they never moved, in the hopes that one day their boy would come home.

"We didn't know what had happened to him, so, of course, the thought in the backs of our minds was always that we should be here for him," father Stanley Patz said on "20/20."

Former ABC News Producer Lisa Cohen wrote a book on the case entitled "After Etan: The Missing Child Case That Held America Captive," which made national headlines. Cohen, who recently spoke with Etan's father again, said, "He is just so grateful that they're actually moving forward with the case. And if anything happens, it can bring some kind of peace to that family."

Authorities investigating the case are using technological advances that can even detect whether a body was moved to reinvestigate the cold case. Vast improvements in technology since Patz disappeared, including agents that detect traces of blood and ground penetrating radar, are allowing investigators to crack "relatively old" cold cases by looking beyond what the eye can see.

Still, in a statement to ABC News, the FBI said that there is still not a significant amount of solid new evidence to report on at this time.

"It's important not to read too much into anything at this time," the statement said. "The process of removing material, sorting it and analyzing it proceeds at a deliberate pace."

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NYPD: Man implicates self in Patz disappearance

By COLLEEN LONG, Associated Press

Associated Press Writers Tom Hays and Karen Matthews contributed to this report.

May 24, 2012


NEW YORK (AP) — A man has implicated himself in the death of 6-year-old Etan Patz, whose disappearance 33 years ago on his way to school helped launch a missing children's movement that put kids' faces on milk cartons, police said Thursday.

Investigators were still going over details of the man's story. The development came just before the Friday anniversary of the boy's disappearance, when detectives traditionally receive a landslide of hoaxes and false leads related to the case.

The man was picked up late Wednesday in Camden, N.J., according to a law enforcement official, and was being questioned Thursday by the Manhattan district attorney's office, which is heading the probe by the FBI and police. The law enforcement official said the man has been tied to the case in the past.

"An individual now in custody has made statements to NYPD detectives implicating himself in the disappearance and death of Etan Patz 33 years ago," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said in a statement. Kelly said he expected to release additional details later Thursday.

The man's emergence as a person of interest was not related to the search of a Manhattan basement in April, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

Both the person familiar with the probe and the official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the ongoing probe into the boy's disappearance in 1979.

At the time of the boy's disappearance, the man in custody lived in the same Manhattan neighborhood as Patz. He had been known to detectives for years, but it was unclear what brought them back to him this week.

Wearing a backpack, the boy with sandy hair and a toothy grin vanished May 25, 1979, while walking alone to his school bus stop for the first time, two blocks from his home in New York's SoHo neighborhood.

There was an exhaustive search by the police and a crush of media attention. The boy's photo was one of the first of a missing child on a milk carton. Thousands of fliers were plastered around the city, buildings canvassed, hundreds of people interviewed.

SoHo was not a neighborhood of swank boutiques and galleries as now, but of working-class New Yorkers rattled by the news.

Etan's parents, Stan and Julie Patz, were reluctant to move or even change their phone number in case their son tried to reach out. They still live in the same apartment, down the street from the building that was examined in April. They have endured decades of false leads, and a lack of hard evidence.

The Patzes are among the residential holdouts in what has become a chic and artsy shopping district. At one point Thursday morning, the actress Meg Ryan — wearing dark glasses despite a drizzle — walked briskly past the scene, ignoring photographers who trailed her.

The April excavation of a Manhattan basement yielded no obvious human remains and little forensic evidence that would help solve the decades-long mystery of what happened to the boy.

The Patz family did not immediately return a message requesting comment.

"I hope this is the end of it," said Roz Radd, who lives a couple of blocks from the Patz family's home and knows Etan's mother casually from walking dogs in the neighborhood. "There's going to be hopefully closure to her, to know what happened to her son."

Etan's disappearance touched off a massive search that has ebbed and flowed over the years. It also ushered in an era of anxiety about leaving children unsupervised.

In 2010, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. announced he was reinvestigating the case. The is still considers a missing persons case.

In the past, the case seemed to have been largely focused on Jose Ramos, a convicted child molester, now serving time in Pennsylvania, who had been dating Etan's baby sitter at the time the boy disappeared. In 2000, authorities dug up Ramos' former basement on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, but nothing turned up.

Stan Patz had his son declared legally dead in 2001 so he could sue Ramos, who has never been charged criminally and denies harming the boy. A civil judge in 2004 found him to be responsible for Etan's death.

More recently, the focus had shifted to a 75-year-old Brooklyn resident, though he was not named a suspect and denied any involvement. In 1979, he was a handyman who had a workspace in the basement where the April excavation occurred.

The handyman's lawyer, who has maintained his client was not involved in the crime, said he would speak with his client and release a statement later.

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Charges in missing boy case

New Jersey man confesses to strangling Etan Patz in 1979, police say.


Posted: Friday, May 25, 2012 12:05 am

NEW YORK • A New Jersey man who confessed to choking a 6-year-old New York City boy to death in 1979 was arrested on a murder charge Thursday, police said, the first arrest in a case that helped give rise to the nation's missing-children movement.

Pedro Hernandez, 51, of Maple Shade, N.J., was charged with the slaying of Etan Patz, who vanished on his way to school in his lower Manhattan neighborhood, police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

Hernandez, who had worked at a convenience store near Etan's home, confessed after hours of police questioning, Kelly said. Kelly said Hernandez told police he lured the boy to the convenience store with the promise of a soda, then took him into the basement and choked him.

"He was remorseful, and I think the detectives thought that it was a feeling of relief on his part," Kelly said. "We believe that this is the individual responsible for the crime."

Detectives are typically barraged with hoaxes, false leads and possible sightings around the anniversary of Etan's disappearance, which became National Missing Children's Day by presidential proclamation in 1983.

The focus on Hernandez came after other leads arose and stalled, at one point taking investigators as far as Israel tracking reported sightings of the boy.

For most of the past decade, the investigation focused on Jose Ramos, a convicted child molester now in prison in Pennsylvania. He had been dating Etan's baby sitter. In 2000, authorities dug up Ramos' former basement in lower Manhattan, but nothing turned up.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. announced in 2010 that his office was renewing the investigation into the case. A few weeks ago, investigators excavated another basement, down the street from the Patz apartment. The search found no human remains.

Investigators questioned a 75-year-old handyman who had a workspace in the cellar in 1979. But he was not named as a suspect and denied any involvement in the boy's disappearance.

Hernandez, who moved to New Jersey shortly after the boy vanished, was picked up there late Wednesday and was questioned Thursday at the Manhattan district attorney's office.

He had been tied to the case in the past, and investigators recently received a phone call with a new tip, according to the law enforcement official. The official gave no details on the tip.

Neighbors in Maple Shade, N.J., said Hernandez lived with his wife and a daughter who attends college.

Etan vanished while walking alone to his bus stop for the first time, two blocks from his home in New York's busy SoHo neighborhood, which was a working-class part of the city back then but is now a chic area of boutiques and galleries.

Police conducted an exhaustive search. Thousands of fliers were plastered around the city, buildings canvassed and hundreds of people interviewed about a disappearance that ushered in an era of anxiety about leaving children unsupervised.

Etan's parents, Stan and Julie Patz, were reluctant to move or even change their phone number in case their son tried to reach out. They still live in the same apartment.

They did not return a call for comment Thursday.

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Elizabeth Smart talks about missing children on the anniversary of Etan Patz's disappearance

May 25, 2012 12:41 PM

By Julia Dahl

(CBS) - Last week, CBS's Crimesider spoke exclusively with Elizabeth Smart, perhaps the nation's most well-known kidnap victim - and survivor. Smart was just 14 when she was snatched from her bed in the middle of the night and held for nine months before being found by police on a traffic stop.

"You never know when that break in the case might come," said Smart. "What if everyone gave up on me, where would I be? Would I be alive? I don't know."

Thirty-three years ago today, Etan Patz, a 6-year-old New York City boy, vanished on the walk between his apartment and the school bus. His was the abduction heard 'round the world, with the smiling boy's face adorning flyers and milk cartons across the U.S. for years, and investigators looking as far as the Middle East for leads in a case that has a new development in the just the past few days.

New York City police commissioner Ray Kelly announced Thursday that police arrested Pedro Hernandez, who police say confessed to kidnapping and killing Patz. Hernandez is scheduled to appear in Manhattan court today.

Patz was declared officially dead in 2001, but Patz's parents, police and people around the nation who were chilled by the little boy's disappearance have always hoped for resolution in his case. A search of a basement near his Manhattan apartment last month - undertaken after new information reportedly surfaced - turned up no signs of human remains.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the mystery surrounding Patz's disappearance, his case cast a long shadow. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan designated May 25, the day Patz went missing, National Missing Children's Day.

A year later, Congress created the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an organization that assists in finding missing children, collects data on crimes against children, and educates parents and kids on how to keep safe from predators.

At the time of the center's founding, school-age children were taught about "stranger danger," with typical safety training consisting of an annual hour-long assembly where teachers and police warned students about not getting into cars with strangers.

But now we know better.

"Lectures aren't useful," says Gary Hayes, president of Keep Georgia Safe, a non-profit organization that offers child safety training. Instead of telling kids what to do, Hayes and other child advocates say we need train kids to kick and scream and call 911 - then reinforce that training through action, engaging their muscle memory.

And thanks to programs like radKIDS, a non-profit formed by former police officer Steve Daley in 2001, kids all over the country are now learning how to fight back and make a scene - instead of freezing - when they feel threatened.

"The focus today is on building self-esteem and self-confidence," says Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "We don't want kids frightened, we want them alert, aware and empowered."

And leading the charge is Elizabeth Smart, who at 24 is devoting herself to imbuing children with the self-confidence she didn't have on the night she was taken.

"I think every child should go through radKIDS training," Smart told CBS's Crimesider. "I want them to know that whatever they need to do to feel safe, whether it's kicking or screaming...I want them to have the confidence to do that."

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Sister of Etan Patz' accused killer says reported confession

By Dave Warner

CAMDEN, New Jersey | Wed May 30, 2012 6:28pm EDT

(Reuters) - The sister of a man accused of strangling a New York City boy who has been missing for 33 years said on Wednesday she "did the right thing" by reporting his confession to Camden, New Jersey police who she says never followed up on her tip.

Norma Hernandez, the sister of Pedro Hernandez, said she gave information connecting her brother to the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz to a police officer who wrote it down in a little notebook but that was the last she heard of it.

Pedro Hernandez, 51, was charged with second-degree murder on Friday. Authorities say he has confessed in the 33-year-old case of the little boy who vanished from his neighborhood and changed the way the nation responds to missing children.

Hernandez worked as a stock boy in a small food store on the Manhattan street where Patz was last seen on May 25, 1979, according to court records. According to a charging document, Hernandez told police he "strangled Etan Patz and placed him inside a plastic bag."

Hernandez' 53-year-old sister said she does not remember exactly when she went to Camden police with information from two of her sisters who said their brother confessed in a church prayer group that he had struck a little boy and threw his body in the garbage.

"They both said the same story: My brother confessed in a prayer group from church," Hernandez told Reuters in an interview at her home in Camden, an impoverished city near Philadelphia.

She said she told the officer, "They should check this out."

"Tell the police and they follow it. If not it's not my problem," she said. "I don't have no guilt in my conscience. I thought I did the right thing."


A spokesman for the Camden police could not be reached for comment, but police there told media on Tuesday that this was the first they knew of Norma Hernandez' claim.

Pedro Hernandez' defense attorney has said his client suffers from a history of hallucinations.

Hernandez said her family members are now squabbling over who said what and when. She said she has seven sisters and would not say which ones told her about their brother's alleged confession.

"This family is going to break apart. Everything is changed," she said. "We're not going to have any family."

Hernandez said she used to take her brother to dinner sometimes and last saw him about six months ago. Authorities say he was living in nearby Maple Shade, New Jersey with his wife and daughter.

Patz's highly publicized disappearance prompted President Ronald Reagan to sign into law the Missing Children's Assistance Act in 1984, sparking the start of a non-profit missing children's center and triggering enormous changes in the way police and the public respond to reports of missing children.

Patz was one of the first missing children whose face appeared on a milk carton appealing to the public for information on his whereabouts.

Last week New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Hernandez confessed during a videotaped interview that he strangled the boy in the store's basement, placed his body in a bag and dumped it in the trash. Apart from the confession, however, Kelly said police have no physical evidence.

The break in the case came a month after the FBI and New York Police excavated a basement in a neighborhood building which failed to yield clues but prompted a tip about Hernandez, who had told family members as far back as 1981 that he had killed a child in New York, Kelly said.

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Families of missing 12 cling to hope, seek answers

12:15 AM, Aug 19, 2012

Etan Patz. Elizabeth Smart. Lauren Spierer. Their disappearances prompted national media frenzies.

Patz was 6 when he vanished while walking to a bus stop in lower Manhattan in 1979. Smart was 14 when she was kidnapped from her Utah home in 2002, reunited with her family nine months later. And Lauren Spierer, the Indiana University junior from Greenburgh, was 20 when she disappeared in June 2011 in Bloomington, Ind., after a night of partying. All have been the subjects of countless news stories.

But for other missing young people, including some in the Lower Hudson Valley, the spotlight has faded.

In Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties, there are 12 people who went missing under the age of 21, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Some parents have endured decades without answers, eager to learn whether their loved ones are alive or dead.

Others cling to hope because only months have passed.

Regardless, optimism ebbs by the day.

Karen Kelly, 71, of Lake Placid has waited more than 30 years for news about her son, Martin Crumblish Jr., who vanished in Dobbs Ferry. She moved from the village in 1992 because she was unable to bear the constant reminders of his disappearance.

“Every time I’d see a mound of dirt, I’d wonder whether he was under it,” Kelly recently told The Journal News. “If he was killed, was it fast? Did he suffer? So many things with a missing child. Wherever your mind can go, it goes.”

Crumblish is one of 121 children reported as missing in New York state and more than 2,500 in the country.

To solve many of the cases, police need a witness to come forward, a parent to surrender or a match in a DNA database.

Media bias, some experts suggest, accounts for why some missing children’s cases draw more attention than others.

Seong-Jae Min, an assistant professor of communication studies at Pace University, told The Journal News that his research demonstrates that media outlets cover missing-persons cases with a tacit awareness of bias.

Factors that contribute to disproportionate coverage of certain missing children include race, gender, attractiveness and social status, he said.

“There is a long line of media research that documented the media’s over-representation of white victims,” Min said. “Missing-children cases are no exception. White missing children … tend to receive a lot more coverage, although half of all missing children in the real world are minorities.”

The bias may be because the majority of American journalists are white, Min said, and news organizations, deliberately or not, tend to prefer news stories that concern the majority audience group, which is white.

A child’s appearance can play a significant role in coverage, he said.

“It is a bit disturbing to say that better-looking missing children receive more media coverage, which basically means that attractiveness may determine one’s life or death as attractive children receive more coverage and hence increase the likelihood of being found,” said Min, who has compared FBI statistics to television news coverage and found a high representation of missing children who are white.

“While there are no conclusive, empirical results, the media may like stories of young, cute missing girls,” Min said.

“This also has to do with the make-up of the journalists and news audience. … From (the majority) perspective, cute, young girls are more ‘vulnerable’ and hence they need to be protected more.”

Still, news coverage or lack thereof doesn’t relieve anguish for families of the missing.

Vivian Jones of Yonkers hasn’t heard from her daughter, Stevie Bates, since April.

“I don’t know where my daughter is, and I don’t know when I’m going to know where she is and what happened to her,” Jones said.

“It’s difficult to get out of bed, but we have to keep looking for her.”

Tom Mauriello, 51, of Rye Brook knows his son is in another country, but he can’t do anything to get him back.

“It’s just awful,” he said. “I’ve shed so many tears over this. I’ve cried over this over and over and over again.”

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Former Suspect in Etan Patz Case to be Freed

Sunday, October 28, 2012 - 04:51 PM

While prosecutors weigh what to do about a suspect who surprisingly surfaced this spring in the landmark 1979 disappearance case of Etan Patz, the man who was the prime suspect for years is about to go free after more than two decades in prison for molesting other children.

These two threads in the tangled story are set to cross next month, a twist that evokes decades of uncertainties and loose ends in the search for what happened to the sandy-haired 6-year-old last seen walking to his Manhattan school bus stop.

The new suspect, Pedro Hernandez, has been charged with Etan's murder after police said he emerged as a suspect and confessed this spring. But there's no public indication that authorities have found anything beyond his admission to implicate him, and his lawyer has said Hernandez is mentally ill.

The Pennsylvania inmate, Jose Ramos, was declared responsible for Etan's death in a civil court, but the Manhattan district attorney's office has said there wasn't enough evidence to charge him criminally. After serving 25 years on child molestation convictions in Pennsylvania, he's set to be freed Nov. 7, about a week before prosecutors are due to indicate whether they believe there's evidence enough to keep going after Hernandez.

It stands to be a coincidence fraught with anguish for Etan's parents, who brought a successful wrongful death lawsuit against Ramos, and for the former federal prosecutor who went to lengths to pursue him. At the same time, it offers a glimmer of vindication for Ramos, who has denied involvement in the boy's disappearance, though authorities have said he made incriminating remarks about it.

In a letter last month to The Associated Press, Ramos said he was declining interviews while in prison but will be available to speak after his release.

Etan's disappearance made national news and raised awareness about children's safety, turning him into a symbol for the issue in a now-familiar response: He was among the first vanished youngsters ever pictured on a milk carton. The day of his disappearance, May 25, is now National Missing Children's Day.

After years of investigation as far afield as Israel, an arrest was finally made on the eve of this year's anniversary. Hernandez, who worked at a convenience store near Etan's home when the boy disappeared, wasn't a suspect until a tipster contacted police this spring after the case, long quiet, returned to the headlines when officials dug up a neighborhood basement looking for clues. After his arrest, the New York Police Department announced that Hernandez had admitted strangling the boy and leaving his body in a trash bag.

There has been no signal that an extensive probe in the months since has turned up further evidence against him. Hernandez's attorney, Harvey Fishbein, raised further doubts about the case, saying Hernandez is schizophrenic and bipolar and has heard voices.

During the decades when Hernandez wasn't on investigators' radar, they explored many other leads and possible suspects, including Ramos.

The 69-year-old came under suspicion early on because he had a relationship with Etan's former baby sitter, but investigators didn't find anything solid. In the early 1980s, Ramos was arrested, though not convicted, on charges he tried to lure children to a drainage pipe where he was living. Photos of young, blond boys were found in his backpack.

Ramos then traveled the country by bus, attending gatherings of the Rainbow Family of Living Light, a loose collection of peace activists who come together around the country. He was accused of luring three boys into his bus and assaulting them at two of the group's gatherings in Pennsylvania in the mid-1980s.

"He had thousands of dollars in `Star Wars' toys on his bus. He had videotapes, and he had all kinds of materials he used to lure children inside," Barry Adams, a longtime Rainbow member, recalled this week from his Montana home. "It was a horrendous circumstance from A to Z."

Ramos' record got the attention of Stuart GraBois, a Manhattan federal prosecutor assigned to help the investigation into Etan's disappearance.

GraBois interviewed Ramos and became convinced he had assaulted and killed Etan - so convinced that GraBois helped Pennsylvania authorities get one of their convictions against Ramos. He was ultimately sentenced to a maximum of 27 years in the two cases, but got credit for time served and is being released.

Over the years, Ramos has made a series of ambiguous admissions and denials about Etan. Two jailhouse snitches claim he confessed to them, and GraBois said Ramos gave him a "90 percent confession." But during sworn questioning in 2003, Ramos said he'd never encountered the vanished boy.

"I have nothing to hide," he said, according to a transcript.

Etan's parents, too, zeroed in on Ramos, pursuing him in a 2001 wrongful death lawsuit. After Ramos refused to answer some questions, a judge ruled him responsible for the boy's death. But there wasn't enough evidence to make a criminal case.

A DA's office spokeswoman and Hernandez' lawyer declined to comment on Ramos' release, as did the now-retired GraBois. The Patzes' lawyer didn't respond to phone messages; the parents have asked to be left alone.

There's no time limit for bringing charges in a murder case, so prosecutors could charge Ramos - or someone else - in future if they decide not to pursue Hernandez. But from a practical standpoint, the fact that Hernandez was charged could be grist for any other suspect's defense.

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N.J. man who confessed to Etan Patz's murder faces charges in court

By Joseph Ax and Karen Freifeld | Reuters – Thu, Nov 15, 2012

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The man who confessed to the 1979 killing of 6-year-old Etan Patz made a brief courtroom appearance on Thursday, standing silently as a prosecutor told the judge that murder charges had been formally filed more than three decades after the child's disappearance.

Pedro Hernandez, 51, did not enter a plea during the hearing in Manhattan, which lasted just minutes. His lawyer later told reporters that Hernandez was innocent and would eventually plead not guilty, despite the previous confession.

Patz disappeared from a Manhattan street on May 25, 1979, on his first walk alone to the school bus stop. He was one of the first missing children whose face appeared on a milk carton as part of an appeal for information from the public. The boy's body has not been found, although he was legally declared dead years ago.

Hernandez confessed in May to luring the boy and strangling him. He had worked at a deli near the Patz home in the downtown Soho neighborhood in the late 1970s before moving to New Jersey.

"Statements made by my client are not reliable. They are what we term false confessions," said attorney Harvey Fishbein, who has previously described Hernandez as suffering from schizophrenia.

The hearing came a day after prosecutors announced a grand jury indictment against Hernandez that charged him with kidnapping and murder. The next scheduled court date is December 12.

It was Hernandez's second court appearance - the first came shortly after his arrest in May - in a case that has haunted the city for more than three decades and altered the way the United States responds to missing children.

The Patz family was not present in court on Thursday.

"This trial will take time and take money and it will not tell the city - and unfortunately will not tell the Patz family - what happened to Etan Patz," said Fishbein, who has said his client did not commit the crime.

He said Hernandez remained under psychiatric treatment and that to his knowledge police had not uncovered any evidence beyond the confession that would point to his client as the killer.

A spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney's office, Erin Duggan, said prosecutors believe Hernandez's confession will withstand scrutiny.

"We believe the evidence that Mr. Hernandez killed Etan Patz to be credible and persuasive, and that his statements are not the product of any mental illness," she said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

A report prepared by a state mental health expert deemed Hernandez fit to stand trial.

For years, another man, Jose Ramos, a friend of Patz's babysitter, was the prime suspect in the case, although he was never criminally charged. Ramos was found liable for Patz's death in a 2004 civil case.

Ramos, 69, was recently released from a Pennsylvania prison after serving 20 years for molesting children but was immediately rearrested on other charges.

Fishbein said he would request any evidence against Ramos from law enforcement as part of Hernandez's defense.

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Etan Patz Case: Murder suspect Pedro Hernandez pleads not guilty, says boy was still breathing when he dumped body

December 13, 2012 1:28 PM

By Crimesider Staff Topics Daily Blotter

Pedro Hernandez / CBS News

(CBS/AP) NEW YORK -  Pedro Hernandez, the man accused of killing 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979,  pleaded not guilty Wednesday and claimed that the boy was still breathing when he last saw him, according to new details of his alleged confession.

Pictures: Decades later, new details in Etan Patz case

Police said Hernandez, 51, confessed in May to killing Etan, but the suspect answered "not guilty" during his hearing as his lawyer insisted his confession to police was false.

Defense attorney Harvey Fishbein said outside court his client "had no motive and no history."

"There is a serious question as to what happened in May 1979," Fishbein said. "There is no crime scene. There are no witnesses to a crime."

Fishbein also noted a body was never recovered. He said that Hernandez confessed falsely after seven hours of questioning by police and that he is still under medical and psychiatric care.

"My client is not happy that he is in jail," Fishbein said.

Hernandez was a teenage stock clerk at a convenience store close to the bus stop where Etan was headed when he went missing on his way to school on May 25, 1979.

Etan's disappearance sparked an intensive and heavily publicized search that turned May 25 into National Missing Children's Day. His photo was among the first put on milk cartons.

Police approached Hernandez this spring based on a tip that came after federal authorities and police dug up a basement in the neighborhood hoping for clues. Hernandez is now married father with no criminal record living in Maple Shade, N.J.

Investigators said Hernandez told them he lured the boy into the basement of the convenience store where he choked him and left his body in a cardboard box in a bag of trash about a block away.

According to a videotaped statement by Hernandez, when he left the box, Etan was alive, his lawyer said in court papers.

Fishbein said he would seek to dismiss the case because the only evidence is his client's false confession. Under state law, a confession can be enough to convict someone as long as authorities can establish a crime occurred and the confession is reliable.

Fishbein said if the case goes forward the defense will revolve around his client's mental state, though he isn't pursuing an insanity defense and Hernandez was found mentally fit to stand trial.

An insanity defense would mean acknowledging he committed the crime but arguing that he was too psychologically ill to know it was wrong. Hernandez didn't kill Etan and made a false confession because of his mental problems, among other factors, Fishbein said.

"The only part that mental disease plays in this case is its role in the confession," he said before the court date.

Psychiatric exams of Hernandez have found that he has an IQ in the borderline-to-mild mental retardation range, his lawyer has said. Hernandez also has been found to suffer from schizotypal personality disorder, which is characterized by hallucinations, according to his lawyer.

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Spring trial likely in NY missing boy cold case

COLLEEN LONG, The Associated Press
POSTED: Wednesday, July 31, 2013, 4:55 PM

NEW YORK (AP) - A murder trial likely will be held next spring for a man accused of killing a 6-year-old boy who vanished more than 30 years ago in one of the nation's most notorious child disappearances.

Pedro Hernandez sat silently Wednesday during a court appearance at which his attorney Harvey Fishbein argued his day in court was too far away. Hernandez, 52, has pleaded not guilty to choking Etan Patz, who was last seen walking to a Manhattan school bus stop in 1979.

The defense has received more than 10,000 pages of evidence in the case, but much more is expected and the process will take months. Fishbein said it wasn't moving fast enough.

"We need a trial date as soon as possible," he said. "We need to have this resolved."

State Supreme Court Justice Maxwell Wiley, who earlier this year denied a defense request to drop the case, set the next court date for Oct. 2. He said he didn't expect the trial until about April 2014. No trial date was set.

Etan disappeared on May 25, 1979; the anniversary later was named National Missing Children's Day in his memory. He became one of the first missing children pictured on a milk carton.

Hernandez, of Maple Shade, N.J., was arrested last May after police got a tip that he'd told people years before that he had killed a child in New York City. Hernandez told authorities he'd seen Etan at the bus stop and offered him a soda to entice him to a corner store where he worked and choked him in the basement. Hernandez said he tossed Etan's book bag behind a basement freezer, put his body in a box and left it with trash about a block away. Neither the body nor the book bag was ever found.

Fishbein argues that his client is schizophrenic and bipolar and that his admission was false. He says many pieces of the confession don't add up.

Under New York law, a person can be convicted based only on a confession if there's additional evidence that a crime was committed.

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Etan Patz murder trial: Convicted molester Jose Ramos to appear at Pedro Hernandez trial
Hernandez’s lawyer 'may seek to present evidence that [Ramos] — and not Pedro Hernandez — is responsible for the disappearance of Etan Patz.'
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2013, 9:50 AM

Ramos was investigated for the 1979 disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz, when the admitted child molester was dating Etan’s babysitter.

A child molester who was long considered the likely killer of 6-year-old Etan Patz — who disappeared in 1979 — has been ordered to appear at the upcoming trial of the man charged with the boy’s slaying.

Judges in Manhattan and Wilkes-Barre, Pa., where convicted pervert Jose Ramos is incarcerated, have ordered Ramos to appear for 52-year-old Pedro Hernandez’s murder trial, slated to begin April 23 in Manhattan Supreme Court.

Hernandez’s lawyer, Harvey Fishbein, wrote in court papers he “may seek to present evidence that [Ramos] — and not Pedro Hernandez — is responsible for the disappearance of Etan Patz.”

Pedro Hernandez has been charged with 1979 killing of Etan Patz.

Ramos was also dating Etan’s babysitter at the time and had knowledge of the events that transpired when the boy went missing on his way to his SoHo school, Fishbein argued.

Judge Maxwell Wiley, who is presiding over Hernandez’s case, determined Ramos is a material witness and issued an order for him to appear earlier this month. A Pennsylvania judge supported the order in a decision issued Friday.

If Ramos is released from jail before then, he will be brought to New York where a judge will determine if bail should be set to ensure his return. He’s now awaiting trial on his alleged failure to adhere to sex offender registry rules. Ramos previously served two decades in prison for child sex abuse.

Judge Maxwell Wiley determined Ramos is a material witness.

In 1988, Ramos told police he brought home a boy he made a sexual advance upon and then sent the boy away on an uptown train. He said he was almost certain that child was Etan. A civil court judge found Ramos responsible for the boy’s death, but he was never criminally charged.

Hernandez, who is mentally ill, is facing up to life in prison if convicted of a single count of second-degree murder.

Prosecutors say Hernandez, who worked at a bodega near Patz’s school bus stop, killed the boy. Etan’s body has never been found.

Hernandez’s lawyer says does not know of any physical evidence and argues the confession is false.

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Trial Starts Jan. 5 For Pedro Hernandez, Accused Etan Patz Murderer



Posted: 05/07/2014 7:19 pm EDT Updated: 05/07/2014 7:59 pm EDT


NEW YORK (AP) — A man charged in one of the nation's most notorious missing-child cases is scheduled for trial Jan. 5 in New York.


Pedro Hernandez appeared Wednesday before a judge, who set the trial date and said the proceeding may take at least two months.


The 53-year-old New Jersey man is charged with murder in the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz (AY'-tahn payts).


Etan disappeared while walking to his school bus stop in New York City on May 25, 1979. He was one of the first vanished youngsters featured on a milk carton, and his case helped mobilize a nationwide missing-children's movement.


Hernandez was arrested in 2012 after police got a tip. He appeared in court Wednesday, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit. He said nothing.


A pre-trial date was set for Sept. 18.

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Defense wants potatoes to be evidence in Etan Patz trial


March 18, 2015, 12:57 PM


NEW YORK - A judge is considering whether 50 pounds of potatoes and a produce box can be used as evidence in the trial of a man accused of killing 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979.


The suspect, Pedro Hernandez, said he choked Etan in the basement of a convenience store after luring the boy down the stairs with a promise of a soda. He told investigators he put the boy's body in a plastic garbage bag, then put the bag inside a banana box and walked it about a block and a half away and put it down in an alcove with other trash. The body was never recovered.


Part of Hernandez's job at the convenience store was to lug boxes of produce, soda and beer up and down the basement stairs into the shop in SoHo.


"I put it on my shoulder. I walked to the right," he said of the box during his videotaped confession. "I was strong at the time. I was 18. I was strong."


But attorneys for Hernandez, now 54, say the confession was made up and Hernandez is mentally ill. Attorney Harvey Fishbein suggests Hernandez was scrawny, weighing only about 115 pounds, and could not have carried a heavy box that far. He is asking to bring in 50 pounds of potatoes and a produce box for jurors to demonstrate the weight of the body.

On the missing-child poster, Etan's weight was listed as 50 pounds. But prosecutors say the measurement was a mistake made by frantic parents, and medical records from just a few months before Etan vanished have the boy weighing about 37 pounds. His mother, Julie, testified that he was very small for his age.


Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon argued that the method for showing how heavy the box would be is unscientific and should not be shown to jurors because it would be wrong.


"It is incompetent evidence and unscientific because carrying a body is vastly different than potatoes," she said.


It would be the second piece of unconventional evidence on whether the confession is plausible. Earlier in the trial, prosecutors showed jurors a photo of a little boy crouching in a produce box, intending to show that Etan's body would have fit into such a box. The boy is Etan's size and shape but isn't identified.


Defense attorney Alice Fontier argued that the photos were equally as unscientific.


"The people have been given free reign," she said. "We need to be allowed to introduce" the box.


The judge said he would decide Thursday.


Hernandez made the surprising confession in 2012 to authorities who were interviewing him based on a tip from a relative. No physical evidence has been recovered, but at least five people have testified that over the years, Hernandez said he had killed a child in New York City. He moved from SoHo, where he had been staying with his sister and brother-in-law shortly after Etan disappeared, to New Jersey, where he has been living ever since - most recently in Maple Shade.


Etan's parents helped galvanize the national missing-children's movement. May 25, the day he disappeared, is National Missing Children's Day.

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Mistrial in case of Etan Patz, among first 'milk carton' missing children

By Ray Sanchez, CNN


Updated 7:59 AM ET, Thu May 28, 2015


(CNN)A lone holdout led to a mistrial Friday in the New York case against the man charged with the 1979 killing of Etan Patz, a 6-year-old boy whose disappearance sparked an era of heightened awareness of crimes against children.

The jury sent State Supreme Court Justice Maxwell Wiley a note -- the third since April 29 -- saying it was unable to reach a unanimous decision on the guilt or innocence of bodega worker Pedro Hernandez.

On two previous occasions, including Tuesday and Friday, the judge ordered the jury to keep deliberating.

A court hearing has been set for June 10 to set a date for a new trial.

One member of the jury of seven men and five women -- who identified himself only as Adam, juror No. 11 -- told reporters he held out against conviction.

"Ultimately, I couldn't find enough evidence that wasn't circumstantial to convict," he said. "I couldn't get there."

The juror described the deliberations as respectful but sometimes heated.

A man identified as juror No. 3 urged prosecutors to retry the case. Juror No. 1, Alian Pahhan, shouted to reporters as she left a news conference.

"Nothing's impossible," she said. "They'll get him next time ... Pedro Hernandez, you know what you did."

'Haunted by demons"

Stanley Patz, father of the victim, said he remains sure of Hernandez's guilt.

"I'm so convinced that Pedro Hernandez kidnapped and killed my son," he told reporters. "He's a guilty man who's been conscience-stricken due to his deeds and haunted by demons ever since that day."

Defense attorney Harvey Fishbein said he was disappointed there was a hung jury but was prepared to defend his client in the event of another trial.

"Pedro's reaction is a very simple one: 'Does that mean I don't have to come back on Monday?'" Fishbein said. "Pedro is not a keen and cunning individual. Pedro is not a planner. Pedro is not someone who would spend 35 years avoiding criminal prosecution. Pedro is not the person that should be on trial in this case."

In a statement, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said there is "clear and corroborated evidence of the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."

"The challenges in this case were exacerbated by the passage of time, but they should not, and did not, deter us," he said.

Vance also thanked Patz's family for the "courage and determination they have shown over the past 36 years."

"The legacy they have built in the four decades since this tragedy occurred, both in raising awareness about the plight of missing children and through the creation of laws to protect them, has made our city, and our society, safer for children."

'This man did it'

Hernandez confessed to police three years ago, but his lawyers said he made up his account of the crime.

"We have now seen the confession," Stanley Patz said. "My family has seen the confession many times. So it's no longer as shocking but it's still just chilling. This man did it. He said it. How many times does a man have to confess before someone believes him?"

Etan's parents have waited more than 35 years for justice, but some have questioned whether that is even possible in Hernandez's case. His lawyer has said he is mentally challenged, severely mentally ill and unable to tell whether he committed the crime.

Hernandez told police in a taped statement that he lured Etan into a basement as the boy was on his way to a bus stop in Lower Manhattan. He said he killed the boy and threw his body away in a plastic bag.

Severe mental illness?

Neither the child nor his remains have been recovered.

Hernandez has been diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder, one of a group of conditions informally thought of as "eccentric" personality disorders. He has an "IQ in the borderline-to-mild mental retardation range," Fishbein has said.

Police interrogated Hernandez for 7½ hours before he confessed.

"I think anyone who sees these confessions will understand that when the police were finished, Mr. Hernandez believed he had killed Etan. But that doesn't mean he actually did, and that's the whole point of this case," Fishbein has said.

In November, a New York judge ruled that Hernandez's confession and his waiving of his Miranda rights were legal, making the confession admissible in court.

Hernandez is charged with two counts of second-degree murder for allegedly intending to cause the boy's death and for a killing that occurred during a kidnapping.

Another suspect?

Another man's name has also hung over the Etan Patz case for years: Jose Antonio Ramos, a convicted child molester acquainted with Etan's babysitter. Etan's parents, Stan and Julia Patz, sued Ramos in 2001. The boy was officially declared dead as part of that lawsuit.

A judge found Ramos responsible for the boy's death and ordered him to pay the family $2 million, money the Patz family has not received.

Though Ramos was at the center of investigations for years, he has never been charged. He served a 20-year prison sentence in Pennsylvania for molesting another boy and was set to be released in 2012.

He was immediately rearrested upon leaving jail in 2012 on charges of failing to register as a sex offender, The Associated Press reported.

Since their young son's disappearance, the Patzes have worked to keep the case alive and to create awareness of missing children in the United States.

In the early 1980s, Etan's photo appeared on milk cartons across the country, and news media focused on the search for him and other missing children.

"It awakened America," said Ernie Allen, president and chief executive officer of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. "It was the beginning of a missing children's movement."

The number of children who are kidnapped and killed has remained steady -- it has always been a relatively small number -- but awareness of the cases has skyrocketed, experts said.

The news industry was expanding to cable television, and sweet images of children appeared along with distraught parents begging for their safe return. The fear rising across the nation sparked awareness and prompted change from politicians and police.

In 1984, Congress passed the Missing Children's Assistance Act, which led to the creation of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

President Ronald Reagan opened the center in a White House ceremony in 1984. It soon began operating a 24-hour toll-free hot line on which callers could report information about missing boys and girls.


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