The excavation of a Manhattan basement yielded no obvious human remains and little forensic evidence that would help solve the decades-long mystery of what happened to a six-year-old who vanished while walking to a bus stop 33 years ago.
The Associated Press reported that on Monday, FBI and police completed a four-day search of a basement that began with a search warrant, hoping to find clues regarding the disappearance of Etan Patz. The warrant was issued after a cadaver-sniffing dog detected the scent of possible human remains.
The basement, once the workspace of a handyman, is down the street from where Etan's parents still live and along the route he would have walked to reach his school bus stop when he vanished on May 25, 1979, wearing a backpack with elephants printed on it.
“No obvious human remains were found, but it's still a missing person case,” Paul Browne, spokesman for the New York Police Department, told AP.
FBI spokesman J. Peter Donald said agents had concluded “the on-site portion of the search.”
Officials hauled away large brown steel containers full of rubble and muddy dust from the blasted concrete floor and brought them to a landfill on Staten Island, where they will be preserved, the report said.
Though the search was over, some of the material gathered was still being examined, and officials were continuing to pursue leads and interview people.
Investigators found a stain on a piece of wall that was tested on site and did not contain traces of blood, two law enforcement officials who told AP.
FBI officials sent the piece to a lab for further testing, noted the report. Some hairs also were collected, though it's not clear if they were human, and they also will be tested, one of the officials said.
A massive search was launched for Patz after his disappearance in 1979. The search continues to this day but no results have been found.
His parents, Stan and Julie Patz, were reluctant to move or even change their phone number in case their son tried to reach out, AP reported. They still live in the same apartment, down the street from the building that was examined.
The couple has endured decades of false leads, and a lack of hard evidence. The two were briefed by authorities about the work there on Saturday, one official said.
They have not commented since the search began last week, and did not again Monday.
The case has been largely focused on Jose Ramos, a convicted child molester now serving time in Pennsylvania, who had been dating Etan's babysitter at the time the boy disappeared. In 2000, authorities dug up Ramos' former basement on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, but nothing turned up.
Stan Patz had his son declared legally dead in 2001 so he could sue Ramos, who has never been charged criminally and denies harming the boy. A civil judge in 2004 found him to be responsible for Etan's death.
However, AP, noted the focus shifted recently to Othniel Miller, now 75, who today lives in Brooklyn. In 1979, Miller was a handyman who used the basement at 127B Prince St. as a workspace.
Miller, who was described by longtime residents as a neighborhood staple, was interviewed soon after the boy vanished. Investigators noticed at the time that the basement had a fresh concrete floor; his space was searched then but never dug up.
At the time, Miller gave investigators an alibi, but investigators spoke to Miller last week and decided to take a closer look at the basement.
Miller hasn't been named a suspect, and his lawyer Michael C. Farkas, said Monday that his client “has absolutely no responsibility for the terrible tragedy.”