Basement Cold Case in Etan Patz Case Ends

By: From CNN, Posted by Ralph Hipp
By: From CNN, Posted by Ralph Hipp

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The search of a New York City basement for clues in the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz more than three decades ago has ended with no "obvious" human remains found, NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said Monday.

An FBI evidence team, along with police, planned to do another check to be sure nothing was missed.

A field test on what was considered a possible bloodstain found in the basement was negative, a source briefed on the investigation told CNN. The stain, some possible strands of hair and a piece of paper will be analyzed at an FBI laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, the source said.

The boy's family was informed Sunday afternoon that the search had come up empty, according to a law enforcement source.

Officials were wrapping up at the scene Monday, Browne said, less than 100 yards from Etan's home. They removed two Dumpsters that contained some concrete slabs taken from the basement, which was a carpenter's workshop at the time Etan vanished. The trash bins and their contents were taken to a location where they can be safeguarded, a source familiar with the investigation said.

The basement is about a half-block from where the boy's family still lives. Etan went missing May 25, 1979, a block from his home in the New York neighborhood of SoHo. It was the first time he walked to a bus stop by himself.

Days after Etan went missing, the carpenter who worked out of the basement poured a new concrete floor, and it wasn't dug up until now, according to a law enforcement source. About a month ago, a cadaver dog reacted to the floor in a way that suggested the possibility of human remains, a law enforcement source said.

The carpenter, Othniel Miller, 75, has not been charged with a crime.

He had no involvement in the disappearance, his lawyer said.

"Mr. Miller has been cooperating with this investigation for over 30 years," attorney Michael Farkas said Friday. "He has continued to cooperate on multiple occasions. And I am going to assist him in cooperating to the fullest extent possible."

Miller's daughter, Stephanie Miller, told CNN affiliate WCBS that her father had cooperated with federal agents, saying he "doesn't have anything to do with it."

FBI agents, assisted by the NYPD, discovered the possible bloodstain over the weekend by spraying the chemical luminol, which can indicate the presence of blood but is not always conclusive, according to a source,who was also briefed on the investigation.

Investigators recently relaunched their inquiry into the cold case, often described as a milestone effort that helped draw the plight of missing children into the national consciousness.

Authorities said that both new and old information led them to Miller, a part-time handyman who met Etan the day before he disappeared and gave him a dollar. It was interest in Miller that prompted authorities to bring a cadaver dog about 10 days ago to the SoHo basement, where Etan apparently had encountered the carpenter, then 42, a source said.

When agents interviewed Miller about his connection to the basement, the source said, Miller blurted out, "What if the body was moved?"

Farkas, the attorney, said he would speak to authorities about that alleged remark.

"I don't know that he asked that," Farkas said.

Miller was picked up by the FBI on Thursday and was questioned and returned to his Brooklyn apartment, a source said.

In 2010, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said his office decided to take another look at the decades-old mystery. FBI leads were then culled from that case file, sources said.

The investigation garnered national headlines as authorities splashed the child's image on the sides of milk cartons in the hopes of gathering more information.

Etan was officially declared dead in 2001 as part of a civil lawsuit filed by his family against a drifter, Jose Antonio Ramos, a convicted child molester acquainted with the boy's babysitter. A judge found Ramos responsible for the death and ordered him to pay the family $2 million. He never paid the money.

Though Ramos has been considered a key focus of the investigation for years, he has never been charged in the case. He is serving a 20-year sentence in a Pennsylvania prison for molesting a different boy and is set to be released this year.

A source said investigators want to expand the pool of possible suspects beyond Ramos.

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