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May 26th, 2010
06:06 PM ET

Authorities reopening Etan Patz case

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Etan Patz, who disappeared in 1979, was the first missing child featured in the milk carton campaigns of the 1980s.
Etan Patz, who disappeared in 1979, was the first missing child featured in the milk carton campaigns of the 1980s.

Gabriel Falcon
AC360° Writer

His was the first face of a missing child to appear on the back of a milk carton. Now, nearly 31 years to the day that Etan Patz vanished from a New York street, authorities are re-opening the case.

In an interview with CNN, the communications director for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. confirmed that the office is taking another look at the decades-old mystery.

“It’s a case that the District Attorney has been aware of since before running for office last year,” Erin Duggan, the communications director said. “Last summer he said he would take a fresh look at the case if he became district attorney. Tuesday he confirmed that the case had been reopened.”

“This was the disappearance of a child that gripped the residents of Manhattan and continues to leave many questions unanswered,” Duggan added.

Etan was 6-years-old when he disappeared on the morning of May 25, 1979. “It was the first day that he was to walk two blocks from his apartment to the school bus stop,” said Lisa R. Cohen, author of “After Etan: The Missing Child Case That Held America Captive.”

“He had been wanting to do it by himself and they gave him permission, literally two short blocks,” Cohen told CNN. “And his mother could see the bus stop at the end of the street and she saw parents there, waiting with kids for the bus, and so she let him go.”

Etan was never seen alive again.

According to Cohen, Jose Antonio Ramos was identified as a prime suspect in 1988. But the convicted child molester has never been charged in connection with the case.

Ramos initially told investigators that he was “90% sure” that a boy he had taken home on May 25, 1979, was Etan, Cohen said.
Ramos has since denied making that statement, Cohen added.

Cohen said Etan’s father contacted her Wednesday after the news was announced that the prosecutor was re-opening the case. “He said ‘maybe we’ll finally get our day court,’” she said Stan Patz told her.

From families and detectives to people in the missing children movement, this case changed everything, Cohen said.

“Before Etan, parents did not have an image in their mind that something could happen to their children,” she said. “And after Etan, they did.”

Related: Boy on milk carton still missing after 30 years


Filed under: 360° Radar • Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
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