Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

My Baby is Missing!

Etan Patz

The six-year-old boy kissed his mother good-bye at 8 a.m. on May 25, 1979, and walked down two flights of steps into the crowded city street. The woman stood on the fire escape balcony, arms folded and patiently watched her son march toward the intersection of Prince and Greene Street.

She had just given him a dollar to buy a soda. His school bus stop was located only two blocks west from where he lived. This was the first time her son was allowed to walk the route unassisted. Prince Street is a tree-lined avenue in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan, which was undergoing a dramatic change in 1979. Originally an industrial area containing factories, warehouses and businesses, SoHo was being transformed into a trendy, much-desired neighborhood by young, upcoming professionals yearning to escape from the high rents of the Upper East Side. They came into the neighborhood with plenty of money and fresh ideas. They converted old manufacturing lofts into spacious, airy apartments. Broken-down warehouses became successful condominiums while abandoned factories became gourmet delis and trendy cafes.

Etan Patz
Etan Patz

The little boy with the big smile walked past storefronts carrying his oversized book bag. He glanced behind him to see his mom still watching from the distance. As the boy approached the corner, he turned his head. A wisp of fine brown hair blew into his face. Mother and son exchanged a brief, spontaneous smile. Beyond him, she could see a small group of his classmates waiting for the bus in the distance. She turned and went back upstairs to tend to her other two children. She would never see her son alive again.

Jose Antonio Ramos
Jose Antonio Ramos

The boys name was Etan Patz. Within the next few moments, Etan was stolen off SoHos busy streets. What actually happened to him and to where he was taken, remains a heart-breaking mystery. His fate, as of this writing, is still unknown. The Etan Patz case is the oldest, open missing child case in New York Citys history and probably one of the oldest in the nation. In 2003, suspicion irrevocably settled upon convicted child molester, Jose Antonio Ramos, 60, who is incarcerated in a Pennsylvania prison. In 2002, Etans long-suffering parents declared him legally dead and planned to sue Ramos in civil court. They did this to force him into a courtroom where they can ask Ramos under oath what happened to their son. Each year, on Etans birthday, his father sends a card to Ramos asking him, What did you do to our son?

Child abduction is the equivalent of a nuclear blast to a family. In many ways, having a child abducted and not ever knowing his or her true fate, like the Etan Patz case, is worse than the childs actual death. Etans father, Stanly Patz once wrote, In this crime, there was a beginning, but there is no end. This psychological limbo ensures the parents pain continues indefinitely. But thankfully, there are few cases as tragic as Etans. Most abductions, which this article will address, end with some type of finality. In some cases, it is the beginning of a life of grief to devastated parents.

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