May 25, 2012

Someone Always Knows Something

A special commentary by Footprints at the River's Edge

In the last 24 hours, news has broken that the 1979 disappearance of 6-year old Etan Patz may finally be solved.

When young Etan disappeared on his way to the bus stop on March 25, 1979, the nation learned that the world was no longer as safe as it once was, particularly for children. Etan's case garnered national media attention, both for the innocent boy and for missing persons everywhere.

"The search for Patz was one of the largest, longest-lasting and most heart-wrenching hunts for a missing child in the country's recent history," reports ABC News. "His photo was among the first of a missing child to appear on a milk carton."

Etan Patz

Sometime today, Pedro Hernandez, a former bodega store clerk, is expected to be arraigned on second degree murder charges in Etan's death. The charges happen to fall on the 33rd Anniversary of Etan's disappearance.
Hernandez, 51, was arrested Thursday after several hours of questioning by police. He ultimately confessed to murdering Etan in the basement of the bodega. Hernandez was 19 at the time and worked less than two blocks from Etan's residence.

While Etan's case did not have the ending any of us would have wanted, it highlights how answers may come at any time. Raising awareness for the missing can help bring answers and peace to their families. 

New Awareness for a Dormant Case

In the years following Etan's disappearance, his case had grown cold. It was ultimately reopened in January 2010 after Etan's father, Stan Patz, pressed the new district attorney for closure and justice. But after so many years, there seemed to be little hope of finding out what happened to the sandy-haired little boy with the giant smile.

In April 2010, a round of fresh interviews led investigators to excavate a possible suspect's basement workshop. The case received national media attention once again.

While nothing was found in that suspect's basement, the new focus on the case ultimately led a tipster to call the police to check into Pedro Hernandez. When Hernandez was confronted, according to police, he quickly confessed to the murder. He expressed remorse and relief. 

Lessons to be Learned

For three decades, the Patz family has endured the agony of not knowing where their child was or whether he was safe. They never moved out of their Manhattan apartment or changed their phone number in the hope their son would one day contact them.

With each suspect that has emerged--like José Ramos, a convicted child molester--nightmares about what may have happened to their son have been resurrected. They searched for Etan, talked with police about new leads and waited breathlessly as police investigated possible sightings of their son. They had their hopes dashed repeatedly.

For 33 years, the parents of Etan Patz have not known what has happened to their child, whether he was cold or hungry or scared. Whether he was even alive. But someone knew. Someone knew and said nothing.

As early as 1981, Hernandez told a relative that he had "done a bad thing and killed a child in New York." Had this person come forward, the Patz family may have been saved three decades of agony.

But it's never too late to come forward. The family of Etan Patz finally has some answers as to what happened to their son. Maybe they will also find some peace.

Today is May 25, the day of Etan's disappearance. It has been declared National Missing Children's Day by President Ronald Reagan. If you know something, anything, about a missing person, I urge you to honor this day, and Etan's memory, by coming forward.


Esposito, Richard and Goldman, Russell.  (2012, May 25). Etan Patz Murder Suspect on Suicide Watch, to Be Arraigned Today. ABCNews. Retrieved May 25, 2012 from


Anonymous said...

No offense but I think you are ignoring something very important in regard to the young men ending up in water or any case for that matter. THE QUESTIONS THAT NED TO BE ASKED.Particulary about the witnesses .Most people act like the kid in class that did not want to ask a question because they were afraid to look stupid. Information that might seem unimportant. It absolututely looks like someone could have killed in patterns. There was even someone turned in for doing such a thing. If you hear for Nathans Herrs family or any of them I would suggest asking any info about any one that acted as a witness or what bar they were at. There is a bar where it would be easy to slip someone into the water from the same location. Frankies Pub. Not only did someone call and use the initials that bar started with FP .It was repeated twice with another recent drowning that happened within a months time. This is important because 1-youy have a suspect known to use patterns and 2-Someone gave information that mirrored circumstances of the night many other victims went missing by giving information that copied the initials of the victim or bar they were at. I am not saying this is or is not coincidence. What I am saying is that is not important. What is important is these questions get asked and families compare notes.

Lisa said...

No offense taken at all; it's good to discuss ideas. I agree that better questions need to be asked. And I know of many cases in which key witnesses were never even interviewed. There seems to be a culture within law enforcement about how to handle either missing persons cases or drownings. This is very engrained and isn't likely to change anytime soon. So we might find patterns or think of questions to ask, but we aren't likely to get anyone in law enforcement to take notice or follow up on them. Many, many families, investigators, and other professionals have tried in vain. I really feel that the best hope is to have someone come forward with information, as in the Patz case. It's hard to believe that no one saw or heard anything in any of these cases. Someone has to know something. Let's hand it to police on a silver platter.