Etan Patz Case: Manhattan DA to Take a Fresh Look at Disappearance

Etan Patz (WCBS)

NEW YORK (CBS/AP/WCBS) Six-year-old Etan Patz vanished on May 25, 1979. One of the most extensive missing-child searches was mounted to find him, but two decades later, the boy was officially declared dead, and nobody has ever been arrested.

Now, the Manhattan district attorney's office under Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. will take a fresh look at the evidence collected against the prime suspect, a convicted child molester serving 20 years in prison in Pennsylvania.

Etan Patz was 6-years-old when he disappeared while walking the two blocks to his bus stop in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan. It was the first time the young boy was allowed to make the walk by himself.

The police launched one of the most extensive missing-child searches ever and questioned many individuals, but no arrests were made. He was the first child to be featured on a milk carton, and the anniversary of his disappearance became National Missing Children's Day.

Despite the massive effort, no one has ever been arrested for the boy's disappearance. Several years Etan vanished, a drifter named Jose Ramos, who was questioned during the original investigation, came under great scrutiny. But Ramos has never been charged. Ramos, who had dated a babysitter of the Patz children, is now 65 and incarcerated in a Pennsylvania prison on an unrelated conviction for molesting two boys.

"Jose Antonio Ramos is the man who abducted my child," said Stan Patz, Etan's father, to WCBS a year ago. "We lost our child to a pedophile, and that's not comprehensible."

During an interview conducted in the 80's Stuart Grabois, a former federal prosecutor and legal adviser to the Patzes, said that Ramos admitted that he was "90 percent sure that [Etan was] the same boy he saw on TV that evening, was the same boy he took" that morning for sex.

But there has never been enough to charge, let alone convict, Ramos, who denies killing the boy, and Stan Patz's only court victory happened 6 years ago, when a Manhattan judge ruled in favor of the Patz family in a wrongful death suit that found Ramos responsible for Etan's death, and ordered him to pay the Patzes $2 million.

Ramos is to be released in 2012 after a 20-year sentence for sexually abusing an 8-year-old boy, bringing a certain urgency to the case, which was never officially closed, the boy's father said. At least one FBI agent and a New York Police Department liaison is assigned to the case.

Stan Patz is hopeful a fresh pair of eyes will yield some results. Vance "says he's willing to do that, and the fact he's willing to say it in public is very encouraging," Patz said.

After Etan's disappearance, his parents kept the same number and stayed in the same SoHo apartment, in case he returned. But in 2001, after waiting 22 years, they obtained a court order declaring the boy dead.