On May 25, 1979—the first day his mother allowed him to walk to the bus stop alone—6-year-old Etan Patz went missing just blocks from his parents’ Soho loft. The case roused the fears of the nation and changed the way parents raised their children. In the days and months after, the full force of the New York press was trained on the family. The case became as much of a media phenomenon as a police investigation.
Despite thousands of man hours on the part of law enforcement, and the identification of at least one suspect in 1990—a convicted child molester named José Ramos, currently in prison in Pennsylvania on other charges—no arrests have been made in the Patz case. Last week, the FBI and NYPD excavated a basement on Prince Street, just one block from the Patzes’ apartment, and once again the media descended on the family. Law enforcement officials are analyzing a stain they found, but so far they have “nothing conclusive.”
On the slim chance that Etan would find his way home, the Patzes have never moved or changed their telephone number, and each time a possible development arises, a new onslaught of reporters arrives at their door. In the 33 years since the disappearance, the Patzes have lived with the media as a fact of their life. We talked to reporters and editors who covered the case in its first year. Read More