Etan Patz

Etan Patz

Etan Kalil Patz (October 9, 19721979?) was a six-year-old child who disappeared in lower Manhattan on May 25, 1979. At the time, news coverage of Patz's disappearance was made into a media circus in the New York area. He is arguably the most famous missing child of New York City. He was the first child to be pictured on the back of a milk carton.


On the morning of Friday, May 25, 1979, six-year-old Etan put on his prized blue captain's hat and left his SoHo apartment by himself—for the very first time—to walk the two blocks to catch the school bus. He did not reach the bus stop.

When he did not return home from school at 3:15 that afternoon, his mother reported him missing. An intense search, utilizing nearly 100 police officers and a team of bloodhounds, began that evening and would continue for weeks. Various circumstances surrounding this case, such as it being Etan's first time outside alone, made it into a greatly media-driven incident.


In 1991, jailhouse informants claimed that Jose Antonio Ramos, a convicted child sexual abuser imprisoned in Pennsylvania, admitted to his murder. Ramos had been a friend of Etan's one-time babysitter. He promised that no body would be found, saying "It's too horrible. No one would ever represent me". In a special feature on missing children, the New York Post, reported on October 23, 1999, that Ramos was the prime suspect in Etan's disappearance.

Etan was declared legally dead in 2001. His parents, Stanley and Julie Patz, pursued a civil case against Ramos, who was found liable for Patz's wrongful death in May 2004. They were awarded a sum of $2 million, which they have never collected, as Ramos is serving a prison term for molesting boys in Pennsylvania. He will have served his full sentence in 2014. Without evidence, a body or a crime scene, some New York investigators do not believe they will ever be able to convict Ramos for Patz's death.


Each year, on the anniversary of Etan's birthday and his disappearance, Stan Patz sends Ramos a copy of his son's MISSING poster. On the back he types the same message: "What did you do to my little boy?". The day of Etan Patz's disappearance, May 25, is now designated National Missing Children's Day.

In popular culture

In the 1983 movie Without a Trace, starring Kate Nelligan and Judd Hirsch, a six year old boy disappears while walking to school in Manhattan. The Stanley Jaffe film was loosely based on the Patz case. While in production, this movie was titled Still Missing, based on the Beth Gutcheon novel of the same name. It was retitled when someone realized that audiences might mistake this film for a sequel to the unrelated movie Missing.

In the 1996 movie Ransom, a nine-year-old boy disappears from New York City's Central Park. Brawley Nolte, the child actor, bears an (older) resemblance to the widely circulated image of Etan. Unlike Etan's case, the object of the kidnapping was merely money.


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