Search for missing child Etan Patz reopens at Soho building
New York police and FBI agents investigating one of the nation's most baffling missing-persons cases began digging in a Soho basement Thursday, looking for the remains of Etan Patz, a 6-year-old boy who disappeared on his way to school in May 1979.
Detectives and federal investigators cordoned off a building at 127 Prince St., at the corner with Wooster Street, after cadaver dogs a few weeks ago picked up trace scents of human decomposition at the location, said a law enforcement official.
The Patz case which frustrated officials for more than three decades, sparked a national movement to publicize the plight of missing children and led to Patz to become the first missing child to appear on the side of a milk carton.
The case was reopened in 2010 as Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.'s investigators began reexamining old leads.
The Prince Street building, located about a block from where the young boy lived before he went missing, had been one of a number of locations looked at earlier in the search for Etan but had not been fully explored until now, said the law enforcement official.
A legal source familiar with the Patz investigation and another law enforcement source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a carpenter who was friendly with Etan's family worked there at the time.
Etan had visited the wood shop the day before he disappeared, the law enforcement source said.
The carpenter was known to investigators at the early stage of the case but was not considered a suspect, that source said. But after new information surfaced, investigators focused on his former workplace.
The law enforcement source added that authorities believe the basement area they are searching was "sealed off" with fresh concrete around the time of Etan's disappearance. The search is expected to last five days.
-- 1979: Etan disappears somewhere in Soho on his walk to his school bus stop on West Broadway.
-- 1991: Jail informants tell officials that Jose Antonio Ramos admitted to involvement in the disappearance; he is never charged but remains the prime suspect.
-- 2001: A judge declares Etan legally dead.
-- 2004: Ramos is ruled responsible for Etan's death in civil court, but isn't criminally charged.
-- 2010: Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance reopens the case.