From the Archives: 2001 Etan Patz Declared Legally Dead
Missing 6-year-old New York City boy Etan Patz is declared legally dead. "This is a sad day for the Patz family, it really is a sad day for New York, but it is also a very important day for bringing accountability to Jose Antonio Ramos," the Patz family attorney said. Ramos has long been the main suspect in the case. He is serving time for a separate case in Pennsylvania.
Dozens of items, including strands of hair, a piece of paper and other possible bits of forensic evidence have been found in a SoHo basement in the four days that investigators have been searching for clues in the 1979 disappearance of Etan Patz, NBC New York has learned exclusively.
Law enforcement sources tell NBC New York that investigators from the FBI, NYPD and Manhattan district attorney's office have told the Patz family that no human remains have been found. The family was briefed Sunday on the investigation, and what has been found at the site.
The search for remains of 6-year-old Patz, who vanished on his way to the school bus stop, began Thursday in the basement of a building on Prince Street. The concrete floor was torn up and investigators sifted through the dirt and soil below for evidence.
Everything that investigators have collected, which includes numerous swabs that will be tested for DNA evidence, is being sent to an FBI laboratory in Virginia.
Pieces of cinderblock wall containing possible biological evidence will be tested for human tissue and fluids.
Some bones were found, but they were determined to be non-human, and were discovered among Chinese food takeout containers, sources said.
Sources told NBC New York that the paper found in the debris is yellow, with handwriting on it, and a piece of tape that contains two or more hairs. Its significance was not clear, but one source said it was important enough to be collected and analyzed.
The search, which was halted Sunday afternoon due to weather, is expected to end Monday afternoon.
At the time of Patz's disappearance, the 13-by-62 basement at 127B Prince Street was being used as a workshop by Othniel Miller, a handyman who was friendly with the Patz family.
Miller, now 75, has been interviewed by investigators several times over the years, but he recently made statements that raised their suspicions, according to law enforcement sources.
In a recent interview with investigators, he blurted out “What if the body was moved?” according to an official.
Sources also say they have evidence to suggest Patz had been in the basement before.
Miller hasn't been named a suspect, and his lawyer says he has nothing to do with the case.
Investigators have also recently questioned a second person, Jesse Snell, in connection with the re-examination of evidence. NBC New York has learned that on the morning Patz disappeared in 1979, Snell was observed at the building where police are searching now, and also worked with Miller. Investigators would not elaborate on why they met with Snell.
One other man has remained a longtime possible suspect: Jose Ramos, a drifter and onetime boyfriend of Patz's baby sitter. In the early 1980s, he was arrested on theft charges, and had photos of other young, blond boys in his backpack. But there was no hard evidence linking Ramos to the crime.
He is in prison in Pennsylvania on a separate case.
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