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“It all changed after Etan"
April 19, 2012 1:20 PM   Subscribe

The 33 year-old search for six-year old Etan Patz, who disappeared walking home from school for the first time, may finally be over. “ After his disappearance, Etan was the first child to appear on a milk carton.

We’re looking for human remains, clothing or other personal effects of Etan Patz,” Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne told reporters.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (30 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't think it's quite time to say it's "over," as all the articles seem to indicate they're still looking. Not found anything definitive yet.

A good lead, yes.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:24 PM on April 19, 2012


I cannot respect any publication that names Joey Boots as a source.
posted by amro at 1:24 PM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yeah, this is all over the news.
posted by longsleeves at 1:35 PM on April 19, 2012


Over or not, this is pretty nuts.
posted by josher71 at 1:38 PM on April 19, 2012


I don't get it... the purported murder confession dates to 1968, but the child was kidnapped in 1979, right? Was that just a major typo?
posted by saladin at 1:38 PM on April 19, 2012


i think it was reporting on rumor and then getting the rumor clarified.
posted by nadawi at 1:41 PM on April 19, 2012


Something from the Post on it, too. A different guy is implicated, which is kind of stunning given the rundown on that first link in the FPP and the other suspect in prison.
posted by jquinby at 1:41 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


And I was hoping that he was discovered to have been living under an assumed name and working with a travelling carnival or running a flying boat hire service in Guatemala or something.
posted by acb at 1:49 PM on April 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


I was 8 -- and yes -- regularly walking to school by myself in the west village when this happened. I remember thinking at the time that my mom was being way over protective starting to walk me to school again because hey I'm 8 and he was 6 -- I could take care of myself!

That memory has always been my own personal corrective towards acknowledging others supposedly irrational fears...
posted by smidgen at 1:54 PM on April 19, 2012 [15 favorites]


"A tipster sent over the above photo, which shows what looks like a lot of younger, junior agents"

The scene in that picture looks like a film set.
posted by mullacc at 1:55 PM on April 19, 2012


"..cadaver dog signaled a hit in basement and now they are digging."

The dread language of the cadaver dog.
posted by stbalbach at 2:00 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


As an aside, what has been the success rate of the milk carton photos? Over all the years, how many children have been found or identified?
posted by Thorzdad at 2:17 PM on April 19, 2012


The program was pretty short-lived in the US. How successful was it? About 70 children were featured. Only one was found alive.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:22 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


As an aside, what has been the success rate of the milk carton photos? Over all the years, how many children have been found or identified?

The people who publish missing-kid pictures on posters, postcards, etc., contend they're doing some good. (Milk-carton programs have largely ended--too upsetting at breakfast.) The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which coordinates missing-kid photo distribution with several hundred corporate and other partners, says it has released pictures of 8,204 kids since the program began in 1985; of this number, NCMEC caseworkers have established that 1,435 kids were found as a direct result. One NCMEC photo partner, the direct-mail firm ADVO, says 116 kids have been found as a result of its "Have You Seen Me?" mailings--a seemingly small number, considering that the mailings reach upward of 80 million households, but until a couple of years ago ADVO featured only one child per week.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 2:24 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember this so, so clearly and have thought regularly of Etan Patz through the years. The city was freaked over this child's disappearance; the number of white, upper middle class kids who have been snatched by strangers from Manhattan is tiny; this was just such a shock. I was 7 at the time, and like smidgen, walking to school by myself. My mother cabbed me to school for three months and then called every single school day for the rest of the school year to make sure I'd arrived.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:39 PM on April 19, 2012


saladin: “I don't get it... the purported murder confession dates to 1968, but the child was kidnapped in 1979, right? Was that just a major typo?”

No, the 1968 thing was quoting an unsubstantiated rumor from this person, who apparently is either unaware of the Etan Patz case or thinks this is unrelated to it.
posted by koeselitz at 2:59 PM on April 19, 2012


The ADVO mailers we get mostly seem to feature children abducted by a non-custodial parent.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:17 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


IIRC the original suspect (?) Ramos is up for parole later this year.
posted by elizardbits at 3:20 PM on April 19, 2012


(Milk-carton programs have largely ended--too upsetting at breakfast.)

I always assumed the milk carton program was discontinued, in small part at least, due to the falling popularity of milk in cartons. Most Americans buy their milk in plastic jugs these days.

I do remember that "What Ever Happened To Janie?" book (apparently a series?) about the girl who finds herself on one of those milk cartons.
posted by maryr at 3:23 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Nothing to see here until possibly Saturday. Maybe."
posted by Ardiril at 3:52 PM on April 19, 2012


Sidhedevil: "The ADVO mailers we get mostly seem to feature children abducted by a non-custodial parent."

Same for the "Amber Alerts" that utilize the Emergency Alert System on television. It's made me quite cynical about them.

I wanted to put a number on how many "Amber Alerts" were for non-custodial parents, so I decided to try look up some statistics from last year. Of the 12 success stories from last year listed on the NCMEC web site, 8 were abductions by non-custodial parents by my count. However, after reading the stories I've changed my mind about how cynically I treat "Amber Alerts" from now on. Many of them appear to have been non-custodial for very good reasons.
posted by ob1quixote at 4:29 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Something from the Post on it, too. A different guy is implicated, which is kind of stunning given the rundown on that first link in the FPP and the other suspect in prison.

If that lead pans out it will really be an object lesson in why one should maintain one's skepticism in the face of pieces like the one in the FPP. So often we think we have sufficient evidence to judge a case and then it turns out that we were completely misled. In some ways the terrible thing about so many of the cases of wrongful conviction out there is not that the cops framed some guy they knew to be innocent but that they just convinced themselves that so-and-so must have done it, and then made themselves see all the evidence through that filter.

I hope the Etan case isn't the only one that Ramos was wrongly suspected of.
posted by yoink at 5:49 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Right on yoink.
posted by pianomover at 5:56 PM on April 19, 2012


Many of the {abducting non-custodial parents} appear to have been non-custodial for very good reasons.

Oh, absolutely. I just think there's a bit of an unexamined belief that all or most of the children in those ads (and on the milk cartons) were abducted by strangers, which leads to the mistaken belief among many people in the US that "stranger danger" has increased in the past several decades. The rate has actually gone down since the late 1990s, and is estimated to be significantly lower per capita than it was in the 1930s (though differences in record-keeping make it hard to be exact).

I certainly wouldn't mean to imply that the abduction of children by non-custodial parents isn't a serious problem, and that it isn't important to be part of resolving those situations.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:00 PM on April 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I was a kid, it was all about Adam Walsh (early 80s). I remember being taught to kick at shins and scream. I remember almost taking a quarter from an old man for a candy machine and my mom turning around to catch me 3 feet away from the guy and yelling at me, terrified. I don't think I ever put 2 and 2 together as a child, I mean... my mom taught me about sex at an early age, but... of course the horrors of what probably happens to abducted children never was made known. I don't know if I ever thought to ask *why* kids were abducted. I knew that the kids were killed, and I guess I just thought it was murder (which of course is bad enough).

There's this idea that Jeffrey Dahmer may have been behind the disappearance of Adam Walsh.

Regarding this case, am I the only one who went to Google Maps to look at the area?
posted by symbioid at 6:51 PM on April 19, 2012


The rate has actually gone down since the late 1990s, and is estimated to be significantly lower per capita than it was in the 1930s (though differences in record-keeping make it hard to be exact).

Why has the rate gone down? Is it due to better surveillance nowadays making it more difficult to abduct children? Or does it reflect some actual improvement in society?
posted by lollusc at 11:09 PM on April 19, 2012


A different guy is implicated, which is kind of stunning given the rundown on that first link in the FPP and the other suspect in prison.

Yeah, well, Ramos was one of the key suspects from the beginning, whereas the guy with the workshop now being examined was dismissed very early in the investigation as a harmless family friend.

As yoink notes, if it turns out that this new lead turns up anything, it will be another telling lesson in how criminal investigations can frequently be derailed by an early focus on the wrong individual, which then becomes a self-fulfilling incrimination, a phenomenon likened to tunnel vision.

Still, I'd caution against flipping those viewfinders in the other direction and concluding that because Ramos was wrongly pursued in this case, he must perforce be innocent of others. It may seem beyond coincidence for one child to have superficial contact with two pedophiles in the same day, but it's certainly not impossible.

Why has the rate gone down? Is it due to better surveillance nowadays making it more difficult to abduct children? Or does it reflect some actual improvement in society?

It may simply mirror the decline in crime overall, which is a trend not obviously tied to any one factor. Perhaps it's attributable, Freakonomics style, to the number of children aborted in the US; comparing by-country trends would be instructive here. I think there's a good chance it may be attributable to sex offender notifications and/or post-sentence incarceration approaches, with some role also played by intensive rehabilitation/therapy to reintegrate convicts. Certainly there is also an overall increase in societal awareness; it's no longer something not talked about, and children get lots of instruction in some jurisdictions in notifying adults and/or being aware of "bad touch" situations and how to handle them. One of the salient characteristics of pedophiles is a propensity to reoffend (whereas burglary can be habitual, molestation is likely to be compulsive), so that a single perpetrator can be responsible for scores, hundreds, or even thousands of victims over a lifetime. Obviously interrupting that sequence might have an outsized effect on the overall rate of victimization.
posted by dhartung at 11:23 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Regarding this case, am I the only one who went to Google Maps to look at the area?

Me too, symbioid.

Partly because it's only 3 blocks away from where I went (by foot) to school when I was 11 - though the story definitely registered back then, I think we all found ways to keep it to another realm.

But partly also due to the picture in the gothamist article: Google StreetView gives basically the same image, and makes it feel almost as though I can peek over their shoulders as this is happening.

(I revisited that very corner a couple of years ago, for the kid robot store; it's weirdly fascinating to go back virtually now - and then the idea that maybe he'd been right there all this time... *shudder*)
posted by progosk at 5:53 AM on April 20, 2012


I wonder if King had this boy in mind when he wrote Gunslinger. The kid in that story lived in Soho, IIRC.
posted by Goofyy at 7:49 AM on April 20, 2012


Etan was the first child to appear on a milk carton.

According to this article, Etan was among the first, not THE first:

"While Patz’s face was among the first to appear on thousands of cartons across the country, the practice began with local dairies in the Midwest."
posted by kuppajava at 9:00 AM on April 20, 2012


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