NEW YORK — New York police and the FBI dug into a Manhattan basement Thursday to pursue new leads in a child disappearance case that shocked the city 33 years ago.
Swarms of officers gathered outside the building where agents hoped they might finally get to the bottom of the mystery of what happened to Etan Patz, who was six when he vanished on his way to school in 1979.
The disappearance was a media sensation at the time and Patz became the first child to have his face put on the back of milk cartons, appealing for information on his whereabouts.
FBI spokesman Tim Flannelly said a search warrant had been issued at the house.
“Obviously there is probable cause,” he said on local NY1 television.
“The take-away, we hope, obviously brings closure to the investigation and the family, but the take-away to the public is that we are committed to these cases.”
Police said they would turn the basement upside down in the search for clues.
“We’re taking down some dry wall, to examine the original wall. There’s been some dry wall put up since that time,” New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said on NY1.
“We’ll be excavating a portion of the basement itself, taking up, breaking up the concrete that covers the floor and digging up the dirt underneath that, looking for those human remains, personal effects or clothing.”
Jose Ramos, the boyfriend of Etan’s former babysitter, was suspected in the disappearance, but charges were never brought against him. He is currently serving prison time on other child molestation charges.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance reopened the closed case on Patz two years ago.