Today in History:
Six-Year-Old Etan Patz Abducted in New York (1979)
Etan Kalil Patz (October 9, 1972 – unknown; legally declared dead 2001 was a kidnapped American child. He was 6 years old when he disappeared in lower Manhattan, New York on May 25, 1979.
At the time, news coverage of Patz's disappearance was made into a media circus in the New York City area. He is arguably the most famous missing child of New York City. His disappearance helped spark the missing children's movement, including new legislation, new awareness, and various methods for tracking down missing children, such as the milk carton campaigns of the mid-1980s.
On May 25, 2010, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. announced that he had reopened the case into Patz's disappearance.
On the morning of Friday, May 25, 1979, 6-year-old Etan Patz put on his prized blue captain's hat and left his SoHo apartment by himself, for the very first time, to walk the two blocks to catch the school bus. He did not reach the bus stop.
When he did not return home from school at 3:30 that afternoon, his mother reported him missing. An intense search, using nearly 100 police officers and a team of bloodhounds, began that evening and would continue for weeks. Various circumstances surrounding this case, such as it being Etan's first time outside alone, made it a high-profile, media-driven case.
In 1982, the Boston Herald American reported that a member of the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) was being held by the FBI in connection with Etan's disappearance. Although the connection was later disproved, the scathing treatment in the press was disastrous to the organization.
In 1991, jailhouse informants claimed that Jose Antonio Ramos, a convicted child sexual abuser imprisoned in Pennsylvania, admitted to his murder. Ramos had been a friend of Etan's one-time babysitter. In a special feature on missing children, the New York Post reported on October 23, 1999, that Ramos was the prime suspect in Etan's disappearance.
His parents, Stanley and Julie Patz, pursued a civil case against Ramos, who was found liable for Patz's wrongful death in May 2004. They were awarded a sum of $2 million, which they have never collected, as Ramos is serving a prison term, in the State Correctional Institute, Dallas, Penn, for molesting boys. His scheduled release date is November 7, 2012.
Each year, on the anniversary of Etan's birthday and his disappearance, Stan Patz sends Ramos a copy of his son's missing child poster. On the back he types the same message: "What did you do to my little boy?".
National Missing Children's Day
The day of Etan Patz's disappearance, May 25, is now designated National Missing Children's Day.
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