Search for long missing NY boy fails to find remains

NEW YORK Mon Apr 23, 2012 8:03am IST

FBI agents and New York City police officers work at the scene of a New York City apartment building, April 21, 2012, where they were searching a basement for clues in the 1979 disappearance of Etan Patz. REUTERS/Allison Joyce

FBI agents and New York City police officers work at the scene of a New York City apartment building, April 21, 2012, where they were searching a basement for clues in the 1979 disappearance of Etan Patz.

Credit: Reuters/Allison Joyce

Related Topics

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Investigators searching a New York basement for clues about the 1979 disappearance of a 6-year-old boy have ended their digging at the scene after "nothing conclusive was found" from a four-day excavation, a law enforcement source said on Sunday.

Etan Patz was one of the first missing children in the United States to have his photograph printed on milk cartons after he disappeared, and his case helped fuel an intense national campaign in search of missing children in the 1980s.

The revival of the search on Thursday by the FBI and New York Police Department raised hopes of a breakthrough but ended without finding any bones or obvious human remains, said the source, who was informed on the matter but declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the case.

"The search in the Patz location has concluded and there was nothing conclusive found," the source said. "A stain on the wall is being tested (in a laboratory) but it's inconclusive what that's about. The digging has been done. There were no bones or obvious human remains found."

However, an FBI spokesman insisted a team would be back at the site in the trendy Manhattan neighborhood of SoHo on Monday.

"The search is going to continue, and we're not done, and we'll be back out there tomorrow," said Peter Donald, an FBI spokesman.

The stain, described as a spot on a wall, was found on Saturday in a basement that was used by a handyman as a workshop at the time of Patz's disappearance, according to another law enforcement official who asked not to be named because the investigation was continuing.

The boy was formally declared dead in 2001. Investigators recently re-opened the case and began tearing apart the basement looking for clothing and human remains after a cadaver-sniffing dog sensed something at the site.

Investigators found the stain by spraying the site with luminol, a chemical that can help indicate the presence of even trace amounts of blood, among other substances.

In 1979, Othniel Miller, then a handyman, used the basement as his workshop, less than a block from Patz's home, an apartment in which Patz's parents still live.

Investigators recently interviewed Miller, who has not been charged with a crime. Miller's lawyer has said his client was not involved in the boy's disappearance and he is cooperating with authorities. A woman who answered the door at Miller's red-brick terraced home in Brooklyn on Saturday deferred all questions to Miller's lawyer.

"This is so overwhelming," she said, before heading back upstairs. "We just want peace."

On May 25, 1979, Patz's parents allowed the boy to make his first unaccompanied trip to the bus stop two blocks away. They never saw him again. President Ronald Reagan would later declare that date to be National Missing Children's Day.

No one was criminally charged in the disappearance, but in 2004 the Patz family won a $2 million civil judgment against Jose Antonio Ramos, a friend of Patz's babysitter who has denied any involvement in the disappearance. The sum has not been paid.

Ramos was convicted of child molestation in a separate case and is serving a prison sentence in Pennsylvania. His sentence is due to expire in November.

(Additional reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Paul Simao)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Ukraine Crisis

Reuters Showcase

Day of Mourning

Day of Mourning

Malaysia mourns as bodies of MH17 victims finally come home.  Full Article 

Gaza Crisis

Gaza Crisis

Gunmen execute 18 alleged collaborators in Gaza; Israel launches air strikes.  Full Article 

Rising Toll

Rising Toll

Documented death toll in syria war at least 191,369 through April 2014 - U.N.  Full Article 

Combating Ebola

Combating Ebola

WHO says drawing up 6-9 month strategy to combat Ebola.  Full Article 

Tensions Ease

Tensions Ease

National Guard begins pullout from riot-weary Ferguson, Missouri.  Full Article 

Nervous  Calm

Nervous Calm

Amid outward calm, climate of fear cements Thai military rule.  Full Article 

Remaining Hostages

Remaining Hostages

Journalist Foley's parents, after call with pope, call for prayer and action.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage