Etan Patz Disappearance Case Re-Opened

Thursday, May 27, 2010  |  Updated 11:30 AM EDT
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Etan Patz Disappearance Case Re-Opened

Six-year-old Etan Patz disappeared in SoHo on his way to the school bus stop on May 25, 1979.  Thirty-one years and one day later, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has declared the case re-opened.

Now, the Manhattan district attorney's office will take a fresh look at the evidence collected against the prime suspect, a convicted child molester named Jose Ramos, who is serving 20 years in prison in Pennsylvania.

Vance's Press Secretary Erin Duggan declined to specify why the case has been reopened.  Vance, who took office on Jan. 1 of this year, ran with a campaign promise to reopen Etan's case.  The office said it cannot comment on open cases.

The search for Etan was one of the most extensive missing child searches in history.  He was the first child to be pictured on the side of a milk carton, and President Ronald Reagan declared May 25th National Missing Child Day in his honor.

In 1982 the Bronx police were questioning Ramos about suspected child molestation when he revealed that he had been involved with the Patz's former babysitter.   However, this was not enough to convict him, and Ramos was released.

Three years later U.S. Attorney Stuart GraBois, trying to reinvigorate the case, resumed investigation of Ramos, who was them in a Philadelphia prison for child molestation.

Ramos was brought to New York for questioning--he thought it was with regard to tax evasion--and when GraBois abruptly asked Ramos how many times he had had sex with Patz, Ramos "broke down," GraBois told 60 Minutes in 2000.

During this questioning, Ramos admitted to having taken a young boy to his apartment and made physical sexual advances to him on May 25, 1979, and that he later recognized the boy as the same child--Etan Patz--declared missing on the news and in the papers.  Etan was the only child missing in Manhattan that day, GraBois told the Wall Street Journal yesterday.

However, Ramos declared the boy had refused, and that he had let him go.  The admission therefore doesn't constitute a full confession, and without hard evidence GraBois could not charge Ramos with the crime at that point.

Etan's father, Stan Patz, believes Ramos was involved with his son's disappearance.

In 1990 Ramos was arrested again for another child molestation case, for which he is still in jail.  Etan was declared legally dead in 2001.

The Patz family filed a civil case against Ramos, and in 2004  State Supreme Court Justice Barbara R. Kapnick declared Ramos guilty of Etan's murder.  The family was awarded $2 million, which they have not collected.

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