Etan Patz was last seen walking to his school bus stop in the Manhattan borough of New York City on May 25, 1979, around 8:00 a.m. His family lived in a Prince Street apartment near West Broadway. The stop was two blocks away on Prince and Wooster Streets. Etan’s parents let him walk to the bus stop alone for the first time.
At the time of his disappearance, Etan was carrying a blue cloth bag imprinted with elephants and one dollar for a soft drink. His mother kept a close eye on him through the window until he crossed Wooster Street, about 150 yards from the bus stop. He’s never been seen or heard from again.
Etan Patz was absent
At 8:10 a.m., Etan’s bus arrived at the stop. Etan was not among the children who were picked up, as was customary. Etan’s first-grade teacher at Independence Plaza School noticed he was absent but did not report it to the principal, so Etan’s parents were unaware he was missing until 3:15 p.m. that particular day They notified the authorities after checking with neighbors to see if he was with them.
For many years, the prime suspect in Etan’s disappearance was Jose Antonio Ramos, a known pedophile. This case summary includes photographs of him. Ramos was a mentally ill drifter who was known for assaulting young boys while travelling across the United States in the 1970s. He preferred boys with light hair, such as Etan.
Ramos was in New York City when Etan went missing in 1979. He also dated a woman who used to walk the Etan child to and from school during a school bus strike; he was suspected of stalking the woman and molesting her son before Etan vanished. Police suspected Ramos saw Etan accompanied by the woman, inadvertently leading Ramos to the child.
Ramos claimed he was with a boy who matched Etan’s description on the day the boy went missing. Etan’s sneakers, with their distinctive fluorescent stripes, he described.
Ramos went on to say that he introduced himself to the child as a “friend” of the former employee before taking him back to his apartment and attempting to sexually assault him. But, he said, when Etan resisted his advances, he stopped and put the boy on a subway bound for Washington Heights so the boy could visit his aunt there. Etan, on the other hand, has no relatives in Washington Heights.
Ramos moved to Watersmeet, Michigan, with an unidentified light-haired boy aged thirteen or fourteen in 1983. In 1983, Etan would have been around that age. Ramos fled the area after being accused of molesting several boys.
While in Michigan, police photographed him and the boy. When they later examined the photographs, they noticed the boy’s resemblance to Etan’s age progression and decided to track him down. Ramos had previously told Watersmeet residents that the boy’s parents ran an orphanage in Columbus, Ohio.
The boy’s fingerprints were on file because he had been detained there. The prints were compared to Etan’s by police. They did not line up. The possibility that Etan and the boy were the same person was categorically ruled out after authorities approached the teenager and obtained a DNA sample.
When a magazine in Israel published a photo of Etan that had been taken by his father and had the caption “Etan Ben Haim,” in 1985, the focus of the investigation briefly shifted to Israel. Since the photo was not one that had been distributed to the press, police were suspicious as to its origin. However, efforts to identify the photographer of the image proved fruitless, and the focus of the investigation returned to Ramos.
Ramo’s Made False Claims
Independently of one another, two of Ramos’s former cellmates reported to the police that Ramos made false claims about Etan’s disappearance and that the boy’s body would never be found.
Ramos allegedly claimed he had been following Etan and knew where the kid boarded the school bus. He was convicted of molesting a boy who was also blond and is currently serving a ten to twenty year sentence in Pennsylvania. In February 2002, New York investigators decided not to charge Ramos in Etan’s case due to a dearth of evidence.
Etan was declared legally dead
A New York judge ruled that Etan was legally dead in 2001. Ramos has never been charged in relation to Etan’s case, but the incident gave the Patz family the opportunity to sue him for civil wrongful death. At first, Ramos resisted taking a deposition about the situation.
A Manhattan Supreme Court judge ordered Ramos to provide sworn testimony in response to inquiries about Etan’s whereabouts in March 2003.
In an interview with police in October 2003, Ramos claimed he had been in a park with Jimmy, an eight- or nine-year-old boy he had met in Washington Square Park the day before Etan vanished. Around 11:15 or 11:30 a.m., two police officers approached him carrying a photograph of Etan. and questioned him about seeing the kid.
Ramos asserted that he drove Jimmy to an apartment after the police left. When asked if he had sexually assaulted the child, he cited his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.
Authorities give little credence to Ramos’s story. Etan was not reported missing until the afternoon of the day he vanished, so it would have taken hours for investigators to release his picture. Ramos has repeatedly changed his account of where he was when Etan disappeared.
In May 2004, the court presiding over the lawsuit found Ramos responsible for the child’s wrongful death because he had refused to respond to many of the deposition’s questions. Ramos was ordered by the judge to pay $2,000,000 to Etan’s parents, but it is unlikely that any money will be collected because Ramos is indigent.
In the spring of 2012, a carpenter named Othniel Miller was briefly considered a suspect in Etan’s disappearance. The day before, Etan had assisted him, and Miller had given him $1.
Authorities looked for Etan’s body in the basement where Miller’s carpentry workshop had been in April 2012 after a cadaver dog picked up the scent of decaying remains. An extensive search turned up nothing. In Etan’s case, Miller has consistently defended his innocence.
In a shocking turn of events, a suspect confessed, was apprehended, and charged with second-degree murder in May 2012, just before the 33rd anniversary of Etan’s disappearance.
Below this case summary, a picture of the suspect, Pedro Hernandez, is available. At the time of his arrest, he was 51 years old and resided in New Jersey with his wife and daughter. He was an 18-year-old stock clerk at a bodega in Etan’s neighborhood at the time of his disappearance.
Hernandez told his family in general terms that he had harmed or wronged children as early as 1981, and he admitted to killing a child to a church group at some point in the 1980s, but he never went into specifics or mentioned Etan’s name. Someone close to Hernandez remembered his statements and reported him to the police after seeing news coverage of Etan’s disappearance during the hunt for the child’s body at Miller’s former basement workshop.
Hernandez told investigators during a three and a half hour interrogation that he offered Etan a soda to entice him into the store, then took him to the basement where he was strangled. The body was then placed in a plastic bag before being removed with the trash. He claimed that he had not sexually abused the child and was unable to provide an explanation for his actions.
His attorney claimed that Hernandez has schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and auditory and visual hallucinations. He claimed to be suicidal after being arrested and was taken to a hospital to receive treatment for his mental health issues. He has never been a suspect in Etan’s case before, and he has no criminal history.
Case is Ongoing
Hernandez was not questioned in 1979, but other bodega employees were. Even if his confession is true and verifiable, Etan’s body might never be discovered.
Etan’s whereabouts are still a mystery, and his case is ongoing. Due to the circumstances, it is believed that there was foul play in this case. After Etan, a book about his disappearance by journalist Lisa Cohen, was released in 2009.