Patz’s disappearance on May 25, 1979, is one of the most high-profile missing person’s cases in the city’s history. President Ronald Reagan declared May 25th National Missing Child Day in Patz’s honor and Patz’s face was the first to appear on a milk carton as a means to raise awareness for missing persons.
Patz’s case was reopened two years ago by Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who declined to give a reason, stating only that he would like to take a fresh look at the evidence. To date, Jose Ramos, a man connected with the Patz’s babysitter, is the only person indicated as a person of interest in the boy’s disappearance.
Ramos is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence for child molestation and admitted in an interview with authorities that he took a young boy he later recognized as Patz to his home on the date of Patz’s disappearance. Ramos claims that after the boy refused his advances he let him go. Insufficient evidence existed to convict Ramos, but the Patz family was able to win a civil suit in 2004, when a State Supreme Court Judge declared Ramos guilty of the child’s murder. The court awarded the family $2 million in damages, a sum they have never collected.
Based on the re-examination of evidence in the case, officials are now searching the basement of a building in Soho on Prince Street in New York City. A handyman who had access to Patz around the time of his disappearance used the basement, which is located 200 feet from the building where the Patz family lived.
Authorities have obtained a search warrant based on unreleased evidence in the case and plan to dig through drywall that wasn’t present in 1979, as well as the brick walls of the basement as part of their search. A medical examiner is on the scene to determine if any remains found are human.