Etan Patz: the Boy on milk carton still missing after 30 years
Etan Patz, the boy who was the first photo of a missing child on a milk carton is still missing 30 years later.
He disappeared May 25 1979 when he was only 6 years old, and was on his way to school in what is now the affluent neighbourhood of Soho in New York. He had never walked to the bus stop by himself, but as it was just a few blocks away, his parents finally relented and allowed him to go alone.
Julie Patz, his mother, didn't learn of his disappearance until he didn't return home from school and he hadn't been in class. She then called the police and filed a missing person's report. The search continued for weeks, but no clues as to what happened to him were ever found.
His disappearance inspired the missing children's movement, and his was the first face to appear on milk cartons all across the country in the mid-1980s.
"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."
Patz lived with this hope until 1982, when he learned of Jose Antonio Ramos' arrest and the surprising connection between him and a former babysitter of Etan's.
Ramos lived near Soho and was arrested in 1982 when some local boys complained that he stole their book bags and tried to coax them under a bridge where he was living, and when police picked him up he had many photos of young blond children, many of whom looked like Etan Patz. The police questioned him, but he denied any knowledge of the Etan, but he did tell his girlfriend that he baby-sat for him at some point.
Police did not have enough evidence to prosecute Ramos and so he was released when the parents of the boys with the book bags decided not to press charges, so he left New York and disappeared for six years.
In 1988, Ramos was arrested and convicted of child molestation and started serving time in a Pennsylvania prison.
GraBois of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office brought Ramos to New York and asked him how many times he had had sex with Etan Patz.
Ramos told GraBois that he'd taken a little boy to an apartment he had on the lower East Side on the same day that Etan went missing. "He was 90 percent sure it was the same he'd seen in the news that was missing," GraBois said.
According to GraBois, Ramos claimed he released the boy and brought him to a subway station so the boy could go visit his aunt in Washington Heights.
"Etan did not have an aunt in Washington Heights," GraBois said. When questioned further, Ramos refused to say anything more and asked for a lawyer, according to GraBois.
Ramos is scheduled to be released in November 2012, and police are pretty confident they have the right person, but without a body they don't have any evidence.
Etan's case is still a cold case.
Anyone with information can still call 212-384-2200