Patz and his mother.(Patz Imaging/NY Mag)
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FBI Raids Basement for Etan Patz Evidence

The ur-missing child story approaches an end

Marc Tracy
April 19, 2012
Patz and his mother.(Patz Imaging/NY Mag)

The case of Etan Patz, the six-year-old boy who disappeared one day in 1979 on the way from his parents’ SoHo apartment to a bus stop at Prince Street and West Broadway, may be approaching as much closure as it ever will. This morning, the FBI entered a nearby basement, a block away from where the Patzes lived, which at the time was known as a sexual hangout.

Patz and his parents were Jews, and even Jose Ramos, the man eventually, in a story full of weird twists, fingered (though never convicted or even indicted) as Patz’ killer, claimed newfound Jewish heritage at the height of prosecutors’ interrogations.

It was “the story that changed urban childhood,” as John Podhoretz tweeted this morning, the ultimate pageant of horror and cautionary tale, which occurred in the quintessential city to that city’s quintessential sort of inhabitant. The archetype the Patz case created has never disappeared; it was re-conjured mostly recently last summer when another young Jewish boy disappeared near his house and was killed amid suspicions that sexual assault was also involved. The difference is, they found Leiby Kletzky’s remains.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.