Left and Center: Etan circa, 1979
Right: Age Progressed to age 17
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: May 25, 1979
Missing From: Manhattan, New York City, New York
Classification: Non-Family Abduction
Date Of Birth: October 9, 1972
Age: 6 years old
Height and Weight: 3’4″ and 50 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian Male, Blonde hair, Blue eyes
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A Black Future Flight Captain cap, a blue corduroy jacket with the name “Jeff” sewn inside, blue pants and a pair of blue sneakers with florescent white stripes
NCMEC Number: 603392
Details of Disappearance
Etan Patz was last seen as he walked to his school bus stop on May 25th 1979 in SoHo Manhattan, New York. He was last seen at approximately 8:00 am. He never made it to his bus stop and was never seen or heard from again.
The bus stop was only 150 yards away from his home and at 8:10 am, his bus arrived but Etan did not board the bus and none of the children or their mothers saw Etan arrive. Etan’s teacher did note his absence but did not report it to the school principal. Due to this, Etan’s mother, Julie Patz, did not realize that he was missing until he failed to return home at 3:15 pm.
When they found that Etan was not with anyone they knew, the Patz family altered authorities and reported him missing. After Etan’s disappearance, a woman cam forward to police and said she saw a boy matching Etan’s description talking to an unidentified man not too long after Etan left.
Authorities initially treated his parents as suspects but they were quickly ruled out in the investigation. Authorities suspect that Patz was abducted by a non family member, possibly someone who lived in the area. In October of 1979, authorities released a sketch of Etan’s possible abductor.
The sketch depicts a male subject who is described as being 40 years old in 1979, he is Caucasian, dyed blonde hair, blue eyes, and he had distinctive marks in his face, possibly freckles or birth marks. This sketch was created from a description that the woman gave. She was also under hypnoses while doing so. This man has never been identified and authorities are unsure if he was involved in Etan’s abduction.
For decades, authorities believed that a known pedophile, Jose Antonio Ramos, was the man who kidnapped and murdered Patz. Ramos was a transient drifter who also had problems concerning his mental health. He was known for assaulting and molesting boys as he crossed through the United States in the 1970s.
Ramos was in New York City at the time of Etan’s disappearance. He also dated a woman known as “Sandy”. Sandy was hired by Etan’s mother the previous week before to walk Etan to his bus stop because a school bus strike occurred at the time. Ramos allegedly stalked this woman and molested her young son before Etan’s abduction.
Authorities suspect that since Sandy was Etan’s guide to the stop, Ramos may have seen her with the child. Ramos did claim that he was with a boy in Washington Square Park on the day that Patz disappeared and said he took the child to his apartment. He said that from there, he attempted to sexually assault the boy but he resisted Ramos’s advances.
He stated he gained the boys trust by saying he was a “friend” of Sandy’s. He stated that he put the boy on a subway to visit his aunt in Washington Heights. Etan did not have any relatives living in Washington Heights at the time. Ramos gave this statement to Stuart GraBois in 1988. GraBois was the investigator assigned to Patz’s abduction at that time.
In 1988, Ramos was arrested and charged with the molestation of a boy who matched Etan’s description in Pennsylvania. He was sentenced to 26 years in prison and was due to be released in 2014. He was arrested again for unknown reasons after his initial release date.
Ramos has given many incriminating statements regarding his alleged involvement in Etan’s abduction and presumed murder in the years after the boys disappearance. He once told a cell mate in prison that he did inc at murder the boy and that his body would never be found.
In 2001, Etan’s family had the boy declared legally dead, giving May 25th 1979 as his date of passing. While authorities did believe that Ramos was responsible for Etan’s fate, they did not file murder charges against him in 2002. Investigators don’t give much credence to his 1988 statement because he stated that authorities asked him if he had seen Etan between 11:15 and 11:30 am but Etan wasn’t discovered as missing at that time.
Ramos has also changed his statements regarding that day several times now. After the declaration of him being deceased Etan’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Ramos. He refused to give a deposition on the matter.
In March of 2003, he was asked to answer questions under oath about Etan and his fate. He stated that on the day of Etan’s kidnapping, he was with an 8 or 9 year old boy named “Jimmy”. Ramos gave the statement that authorities came up to him to inquire about Etan’s disappearance at approximately 11:15 am to 11:30 am.
Since Ramos refused to answer many of the questions given to him, a judge found Ramos legally responsible for Etan’s death in May of 2004. He was due to pay $2,000,000 to Etan’s parents. Since he is destitute, no money was ever payed.
In April of 2012, a man named, Othniel Miller, was treated as a possible suspect in Patz’s disappearance. The day prior to Etan’s disappearance, the boy had helped Othniel with a task and as a result, Patz was given a reward of $1. Othniel had a carpentry workshop and the basement was searched.
Cadaver dogs flagged the area as having decomposing human remains in them. Authorities and FBI agents searched the basement for Patz’s remains. They found bone fragments but they were found to belong to domesticated turkeys. Miller maintains his innocence in Patz’s disappearance.
Then on May 23rd 2012, a man named Pedro Hernandez was arrested and charged with Etan’s abduction and murder. At the time he was arrested, Pedro was 51 years old and lived in Camden, New Jersey with his wife and daughter. He was a stock boy at a bodega on Etan’s neighborhood.
Etan was going to visit the bodega that morning in order to buy a soft drink with the dollar Miller gave him the previous day. Hernandez stated he saw Etan waiting for the bus alone and offered the boy a soda from the basement. He led Etan into the basement where he said he strangled him until he was limp and then placed his body in a black garbage bag and then into a banana box. He stated he threw the boys backpack behind a freezer.
Some accounts differ as the what he did with Etan’s remains afterwards. Some articles state that Hernandez left Patz’s body in a walk in freezer until disposing of it later while others stated that he dumped the box in Street side trash or in an abandoned building corridor. Authorities suspect that Patz’s body was taken by a trash truck and then dumped in a landfill.
While many including Patz’s parents believe the confession, others don’t, including Hernandez’s legal team and at one point a jury deadlocked because he was unconvinced by the confession. In the confession, Hernandez claimed that Patz was at the stop alone despite the fact that many children and mothers were at the stop and didn’t see him. It’s always been established that Patz never even made it to the stop.
His legal team has stated that Hernandez has bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and has hallucinations. After he confessed to Patz’s murder, he claimed he was suicidal and was placed on suicidal watch at a hospital and was treated for his mental problems.
Hernandez gave various statements to people he knew and his family about doing something horrible to a child. He also told a church group that he had killed a child. He was very vague about his admissions and didn’t mention Etan’s name at all. His brother in law reported Hernandez to authorities after seeing the news coverage about the search of Miller’s basement.
Hernandez’s legal team has maintained that Hernandez is innocent in Patz’s case and that it’s more likely that Jose Ramos was the true killer. Pedro was convicted of 1st degree kidnapping and 2nd degree murder in February of 2017. He was sentenced to 25 years to life imprisonment.
Even if Pedro’s confession is accurate or not, it’s possible that Patz’s remains will never be found. Pedro’s statements have not been confirmed by physical evidence.
Etan’s case remains unsolved and his whereabouts a mystery. His disappearance was reopened in 2009 and foul play is suspected in his case. He has been dubbed as the original milk carton kid. His disappearance helped America come to realize the true significance of a missing child. Patz has never been located.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
New York City Police Department 646-610-6914
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
New York State Division of Criminal Justice