Etan Patz search continues: FBI searches basement for clues in 1979 missing child case

Etan Patz search continues: FBI searches basement for clues in 1979 missing child case
Federal Bureau of Investigation and NYPD law enforcement officials search a SoHo basement at the corner of Wooster and Prince streets for the possible remains of missing child Etan Patz as part of a decades-old investigation into the disappearance of Patz, on Thursday, April 19, 2012 in New York.
AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

(CBS/AP) NEW YORK - FBI agents and New York City police will spend a second day today searching a basement in lower Manhattan for clues in the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz, who vanished in May 1979 while on a walk to the school bus.

Pictures: Etan Patz

According to the New York Times, a forensic team will dig up the basement that was used as a workspace by Othniel Miller, a handyman in Patz's building. The searchers will dig up the concrete floor and remove drywall in a search for clothing, traces of blood, or human remains.

Dozens of police and federal agents outside the building on Prince Street are expected to continue their search over the next five days. The bureau's Evidence Recovery Team is at the scene, said FBI Special Agent Peter Donald.

"We are cautiously optimistic" that the search will be helpful," FBI Special Agent Tim Flannelly told CNN.

According to the Times, a law enforcement official said that FBI agents interviewed Miller in the past few days and when the subject turned to the possibility that his body was buried in the basement, he reportedly said "What if the body was moved?"

Police then brought a cadaver dog to the SoHo basement, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation, and the dog allegedly picked up a scent of human remains, reports CNN.

Investigators have long eyed the basement with curiosity because it can be accessed from the street on the boy's route to school.

In 2010, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., said his office decided to take another look at the case. Sources said the FBI leads were taken from that case file.

Patz was declared legally dead in 2001. No one has ever been prosecuted for the boy's disappeance, but his parents sued an incarcerated drifter and admitted child-molester, Jose Ramos, who had been dating Etan's babysitter around the time he disappeared. Ramos denied killing the child, but in 2004 a Manhattan judge ruled him to be responsible for the death.

Sources said forensic evidence uncovered at the scene will be analyzed at the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Virginia.

Etan's disappearance drew national attention to child safety, ushered in a generation of parents who became afraid to send their kids out alone and helped fuel a movement to publicize missing children's cases. Etan's face was among the first to appear on milk cartons. President Ronald Reagan declared May 25, the day of his disappearance, National Missing Children's Day.

Complete coverage of the Etan Patz disappearance on Crimesider