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article imageOriginal Boy on the Milk Carton Still Missing After 30 Years

By Raymond Bochman     May 15, 2009 in Crime
Etan Patz, the first missing child pictured on a milk carton, has been gone for 30 long years but has not been forgotten.
Six year old Etan Patz went missing on May 25, 1979. It was the Friday before Memorial Day. He disappeared from his Soho, New York neighborhood while on his way to school. He insisted on being able to walk to the bus stop by himself just like all the other kids. Etan's parents were not keen on the idea. But, after arguing the point with Etan, his parents finally relented, and let him walk alone to the bus stop. It was not until late in the afternoon that anyone realized that Etan was missing.
Etan's mother, Julie Patz, found out her son had not been in class after he did not return home after school. She then called the homes of all his friend but could not locate Etan. She then called the police and filed a missing persons report. By that night more than "...100 police officers and searchers had gathered with bloodhounds" had joined the search for the missing boy. They were unable to find any trace of Etan. Believing that the boy was kidnapped Etan's father, Stan Patz, speculated about why he had been taken.
"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."
It was not until 1982 before there was any kind of break in the case. This was when the family learned about the arrest of a one Jose Antonio Ramos. It turns out that there was a connection between he and Etan's former babysitter. The article says
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.
The Bronx and Manhattan Prosecutors followed the leads but decided that there was not enough evidence to link Mr. Ramos to the crime. He was released only after Etan's parents decide not to press charges. The case went cold and Mr Ramos disappear for 6 years until federal prosecutor Stuart GraBois reopened it.
He discovered that, in 1988, Ramos had a child molestation conviction, and that he was serving his time in a Pennsylvania prison. GraBois decided to have Mr. Ramos brought to NY for questioning. In what seemed like a Law and Order moment GraBois put a surprise questions to Ramos hoping to get him to confess. He asked "How many times did you have sex with Etan Patz?" Ramos at that point admitted to having take "a little boy" to his lower East Side apartment on the same day Etan went missing. He also said "he was 90 percent sure it was the same he'd seen in the news that was missing."
His story was that he released the boy at a subway station so that he could go visit his aunt in Washington Heights. Etan had no aunt in Washington Heights. Trying to press him further about the incident Ramos refused to talk and requested to see a lawyer.
Ramos 10 to 20 year term for his child molestation conviction will be up in 2012. GraBois had him transferred to federal prison where he planted informants as cell mates. GraBois would give no details about what the informants had told him but "...he's convinced he's eyeing the right suspect."
That information has been given to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, but no charges have been filed. Without a body the District Attorney does not believe there is enough evidence to get a conviction. Etan's disappearance is still on the NYPD's cold case list.
If anyone does have information about the case they can contact the FBI/NYPD Etan Patz hotline: 212-384-2200.
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