Etan Patz Declared Dead After Missing 22 Years
He vanished more than 20 years ago, and his disappearance led to nationwide changes when it came to missing children. Now, the tragic story of Etan Patz has a written ending, allowing his parents to move forward. NY1 Manhattan reporter Rebecca Spitz filed the following report.
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At 10:42 Tuesday morning, 22 years, 25 days and a little more than two hours after he vanished, Etan Patz was legally declared dead.
"This is a sad day for the Patz family, and this is a sad day for New York," said attorney Brian O'Dwyer.
So sad the Patz family didn't want to be there.
The tragedy began more than two decades ago, when Patz was heading to the school bus stop just two blocks from the family's apartment in Manhattan. It was the first time the six-year-old boy was allowed to go alone.
"I think this particular case brought to light the evil that lurks in society, unfortunately, and it woke everybody up," said former prosecutor Stuart GraBois.
Patz' disappearance changed the way the nation looked at and for missing children. Age-enhanced photos, posters and the infamous milk carton became standard search tools after Etan Patz.
But in his case, they didn't work. Then, in 1988 as part of a different case, a Pennsylvania prisoner told investigators his cellmate, convicted pedophile Jose Antonio Ramos, confessed to him: "Etan is dead. There is no body and there will never be a body."
Police searched Ramos' apartment back then, and again last summer, but didn't find anything.
Ramos, then-boyfriend of the Patz family babysitter, is serving a 20-year sentence on unrelated sexual assault charges. But now that Patz has been declared dead, lawyers are planning a civil wrongful death suit.
According to O'Dwyer, "He'll be up for parole, and it's our earnest hope that parole will not be granted and that he will serve at least the full sentence."
On the surface, little has changed for the Patz family over the last 22 years. They still live in the same loft in SoHo, and they still have the same phone number Etan knew by heart in case he would call.
Of course, one thing is different now: they have legal confirmation that Etan is dead, and the knowledge he won't be coming home.
- Rebecca Spitz