Police and FBI agents dug in an apartment basement Saturday in the SoHo district of New York to search for the remains of a boy who was six years old when he disappeared more than three decades ago.
A portion of Prince Street, where Etan Patz lived, was closed to traffic as about 30 specialists and agents, some wearing masks and gloves, searched the site for the third day in a row.
Grinding equipment was brought in and water pipes connected to a fire hydrant. The search team hid the basement from public view with a blue tarp.
The basement is located about 160 feet (50 meters) from the apartment where Etan lived when he disappeared May 25, 1979 after his parents allowed him to walk alone to a school bus stop on a neighboring street for the first time.
Investigators planned to break the concrete floor of the basement to search the underlying soil and base of the walls.
The work is expected to last several days.
Authorities reopened the case after questioning a handyman who lived in the basement at the time, local media reported.
And cadaver dogs used to explore the basement recently reported a positive reaction, police said.
The handyman, Othniel Miller, worked in the building where Etan’s parents still live, and knew the child.
Miller’s lawyer said Friday that his client “denied any involvement in what happened” to Patz.
“He will continue to cooperate within the limits of what is possible,” attorney Michael Farkas said after meeting with Miller at his Brooklyn home.
The child’s parents posted a note to the media on their apartment building, where the sound of machinery could be heard nearby, saying, “The answer to all your questions at this time is no comment. Please, stop ringing our bell and calling our phone for interviews.”
Some tourists in the southern Manhattan neighborhood were intrigued.
“It’s like a movie,” said a French girl as she looked at the white vehicles of the FBI and police, some marked “police crime scene unit.”
The investigation into the boy’s disappearance was relaunched two years ago by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, fulfilling a pledge he made during his election campaign.
The angel-faced child with light hair was the first child in the United States to have his image put on the back of milk cartons, in an appeal for information on his whereabouts.
The case shocked the nation and prompted many parents to avoid allowing their children to walk alone to school.