Today, the FBI and NYPD have resumed their investigation into the 33-year-old missing child case of Etan Patz. Etan was six years old when he missing while walking from his apartment on Prince Street to his bus stop two blocks away on Friday, May 25, 1979 and he was never heard from again.
Etan's body was never found, complicating the investigation. There was a prime suspect, Jose Ramos, but there was no evidence that linked Ramos directly to Etan. Ramos, who lived on East 4th Street, dated a woman who walked Etan to school. In 1988, then NYPD Missing Persons Squad Commander Lieut. Robert Douglas told the NY Times, "Do I remember? Do you remember World War II?" and "[recited] the details: 6-year-old Etan left his home on Prince Street in SoHo on May 29, 1979, to catch a bus that would have taken him to the Independence Plaza annex of Public School 3, where he was in first grade. He never made it to the bus stop. The abduction prompted an extensive search that, by 1985, had reached even to Israel. And it generated widespread publicity, becoming the catalyst in the search for missing children."
Etan was the first missing child to be put on a milk carton and, in 1983, President Reagan named May 25 "National Missing Children's Day" after him. After two decades, in 2001, a judge ruled that Etan could be legally declared dead. Stuart R. GraBois, a former federal prosecutor who worked on the case and is now an adviser to the Patzes, told the judge, "We have information that Etan Patz is dead."
In 2004, while in prison for molesting two boys, Ramos was found responsible for Etan's death in 2004 in a wrongful death civil suit from the Patzes—a cellmate of Ramos said that he was told Ramos took Etan to his apartment and sexually assaulted him. "'Etan is dead, there is no body, and there will never be a body," Ramos allegedly told the cellmate.
Etan's father, photographer Stanley Patz, said a few years ago, "Jose Antonio Ramos is the man who abducted my child. We lost our child to a pedophile, and that's not comprehensible." In 2010, shortly after taking office, Manhattan DA Cy Vance said he would re-open the case, which relieved Stanley Patz, who was frustrated by prior DA Robert Morgenthau's refusal to bring it to a grand jury. Patz said, "All we have been asking for is the district attorney to take a good look at the information. I realize this is not like `CSI.' That's why it's been a tough case all along. But there is enough evidence that a competent attorney can use to prosecute."
Two years ago, the Wall Street Journal reported, "In a posting on the Internet years ago, Mr. Ramos denied any wrongdoing in the Patz case. 'I never took Etan Patz to my apartment on May 29, 1979, to have sex with him,' he wrote. Etan disappeared on May 25, 1979. Mr. Ramos wrote that he told the prosecutor he took a child named Jimmy to his apartment. 'When he said no to my invitation to sex, I safely took the boy away and put him on a subway train.'" Ramos is scheduled for release this November.
Last year, when Brooklyn boy Leiby Kletzky went missing while walking home by himself for the first time from day camp and was later found dead, with his dismembered body parts scattered around Brooklyn, Stanley Patz told the Times, "I’m no expert on missing children, and I don’t want to be the spokesman for missing children’s families. I don’t know what to tell parents of other children who are missing. But I feel terrible for this family, obviously. This is just a horrible thing to happen to anybody.... It never goes away." Leiby's alleged killer allegedly confessed and is awaiting trial. Patz said, "Our story is even more open-ended because we think we know what happened, but not exactly."
Read an in-depth narrative of the crime at TruTV. NY Magazine had a riveting feature about the case in 2004: "Stan and Julie never changed their phone number either; Etan knew it by heart. And in spiral-bound notebooks they kept detailed logs of every call, no matter how crazy or obscene. Tips came in from around the world. A man said he’d picked up a 21-year-old hitching upstate with a kid he was “almost positive” was Etan. A psychic claimed Etan was alive 'in a province of Italy.' Closer to home, the police interviewed scores of people connected to the family—even grilling the Patzes themselves—yet one link would go unseen."