The Parents of Etan Patz Have Not Changed Their Phone Number In 30 Years
Sometimes a book is so much more than a good read.
After Etan by Lisa R. Cohen, out this month, tells the story of the disappearance of Etan Patz. Etan was the child who walked the two blocks to his school bus for the first and last time 30 years ago this Memorial Day weekend. Julie and Stan Patz, the parents of Etan Patz, believe he is dead but do not know. They believe a pedophile named Jose Ramos abducted and killed him but do not know. They do know they’ve made a difference in how we protect our children today by keeping the issues surrounding their son alive, even if they can do nothing to save him.
Cohen, a television producer who covered this story and could not put it away after the cameras stopped rolling, evokes many extraordinary people central to the investigation. One is New York attorney Stuart GraBois, who never stopped pursuing the answers to what happened, going so far as to get himself deputized in Pennsylvania when Ramos was there, so that he could legally pursue him beyond the jurisdiction of New York state. GraBois had attained a partial confession from Ramos early on in the investigation, when Ramos told GraBois he was with Patz the day the boy disappeared but put him on a subway to Washington Heights, and remains committed to finding out everything Ramos knows.
But, according to Cohen, Robert Morgenthau felt GraBois had insufficient evidence to bring Jose Ramos to trial successfully, and Ramos was ultimately convicted on other charges.
A new Manhattan D.A. takes the helm this November, and front-running candidates have stated for the record that they will fully address this investigation anew.
Here’s an excerpt from Cohen’s book, published this week in New York magazine, about the little boy who was the very first to appear on the side of a milk carton, and the one who unwittingly set May 25th — the date of his abduction — as the annual date for National Missing Children Day:
“Would you mind working up a few tears for me now,” the man asked Julie, “so I don’t have to come back and bother you again when they find the body?”
The photographer never had to come back. Etan’s body has never been found. And although an entire network for tracking missing children emerged from his disappearance—pictures on milk cartons and Amber alerts and National Missing Children’s Day—that’s small comfort for Stan and Julie Patz, both of whom fought very hard for such things so others wouldn’t have to. After 30 years, Etan’s case remains officially open in New York, the mysterious, enduring symbol of a parent’s worst nightmare.