Police search for evidence in the disappearance of Etan Patz

Story highlights

  • Police are pulling possible evidence from a Manhattan basement
  • The recovered items could potentially include a hair, says a source
  • 6-year-old Etan Patz vanished in 1979 on his way to school
  • Police have arrested Pedro Hernandez in the boy's suspected killing
Police removed debris and possible evidence from a Manhattan basement Friday, searching for clues that could help them solve the 1979 disappearance of Etan Patz.
Etan was just 6 years old when he vanished on his way to school.
Investigators resumed their search at the site of a former bodega in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood this week. They have so far removed at least five large paper bags and used tools, including a shovel, from the basement.
On Friday, workers wearing shirts identifying themselves as employees of the New York Medical Examiner's office carried out three large plastic cases. They placed them in a van marked "Forensic Anthropology."
The debris will be tested for hair and fiber to see whether it matches Etan and what he was wearing on the day he disappeared, according to a law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation.
There appeared to be a possible hair among the items recovered, but forensic tests are needed to determine if any hair found is indeed human and whether it came from the boy, the source said, adding that a book or magazine was also recovered.
In May, police arrested New Jersey resident Pedro Hernandez in the boy's suspected killing. Investigators are anxious to find physical evidence in the case because, so far, no such evidence exists to support Hernandez's claims.
Hernandez allegedly confessed to the murder, telling authorities that he had lured Etan to the basement of a corner store where he once worked and strangled the boy. He reportedly told police he disposed of the body inside a garbage bag left outside the building.
Hernandez has been undergoing psychiatric evaluation and was arraigned on second degree murder charges via video feed from his bed at Manhattan's Bellevue Hospital.
It's too early to know whether the ongoing search will produce anything of use, said the law enforcement source.
After Etan disappeared, investigators tried what was then a novel technique to try to find him: They put his face on thousands of milk cartons, a technique that would become more common in the next few years.
Relatives and authorities of other missing children also put images of the missing on billboards and fliers.
Those more assertive efforts eventually led to the AMBER alert system, which broadcasts news about missing children on TV, radio, the Internet, mobile phones and highway signs, and also puts the information on lottery tickets.