Etan Patz Update: Jose Ramos, longtime suspect in disappearance case, arrested after his release for lying about new address, police say
(CBS/AP) Philadephia, Pa. -- Jose Ramos, the former longtime suspect in the 1979 disappearance of Etan Patz, walked out of a northeastern Pennsylvania prison Wednesday morning only to be arrested by state police immediately after because he lied about where he planned to live after his release, police said.
"When he walked out of the main gate, he was taken into custody by troopers," Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Richard Krawetz said.
According to arrest papers, Ramos is accused of a Megan's Law violation when he lied to police and supplied them the Bronx address of a cousin who hadn't lived there in decades. The 69-year-old was arraigned on a felony charge of failure to register as a sex offender. A magistrate set bail at $75,000, and Ramos was sent to the Luzerne County jail.
Ramos was long suspected in the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan, whose disappearance on May 25, 1979 prompted a massive international search and made his photo was among the first put on milk cartons. Ramos was dating the boy's baby sitter.
Ramos was declared responsible for Etan's death in a civil court in 2004, but the Manhattan district attorney's office has said there wasn't enough evidence to charge him criminally. Ramos has denied any involvement in Etan's disappearance.
Earlier this year, Pedro Hernandez was charged with Etan's murder after police said he confessed. Prosecutors are expected this month to announce whether they believe there's enough evidence to continue pursuing a case against Hernandez, who worked at a convenience store near Etan's home when the boy disappeared and told police he strangled the boy and stuffed his body in a trash bag.
Ramos entered the Pennsylvania prison system on March 27, 1987, and served a 27-year sentence for molesting two other boys. He was released from the prison on Wednesday morning after being given credit for the time he'd spent in county jail prior to his conviction.
A few weeks before his release, Ramos' counselor and a prison records specialist had him fill out the required Megan's Law registration form, according to court documents.
But when New York City police checked out the address he provided, they found no one living there who knew Ramos. And when police tracked down the cousin whose name Ramos had listed, she told them she hadn't had any contact with him in 35 years and did not plan to allow him to live with her.
"Family members were frightened of Ramos when he would visit," a police affidavit said.
Defense lawyers who represent sex offenders in Megan's Law cases said they suspect Ramos was set up to fail. They said long-term inmates often don't know where they will live and mark down a long-ago address because that's the one they know.
To be convicted of violating Pennsylvania's Megan's Law, Ramos must be found to have knowingly misled state police. Court documents say prison staff warned him he'd be committing a felony if he didn't follow the requirements of the law.