Officials investigating the disappearance of six-year-old Etan Patz 33 years ago have found a suspicious stain in the basement of a handyman who was friendly with him.
Police and FBI have been digging up the basement in New York for three days after the ex-wife of suspect Othniel Miller told them he had raped his ten-year-old niece, providing a possible lead in the famous cold case.
Investigators have now finished removing the floor of the basement, and are searching the ground beneath it for possible further clues to the mystery.
On Saturday they discovered a 'stain of interest' in the drywall of the basement, and have cut it out and sent it to a laboratory for analysis, according to NBC New York.
Search: The ex-wife of Othniel Miller claims that Miller, right, raped his niece, 10, years after Etan Patz, left, disappeared; sources say this is why Miller's former basement is being dug up decades after Etan vanished
Denial: Miller, centre, has pleaded his innocence over the claims he was involved in Etan's disappearance
Aerial view: The New York City apartment building where FBI agents and New York City Police have been searching since 8am yesterday morning, cautiously optimistic they will find something
Earlier it emerged that Miller's ex-wife told police she divorced him after learning that he attacked his niece in her New Jersey home, according to The New York Post.
Police allegedly used this claim of child abuse to excavate the SoHo basement where Miller had his wood shop and was living when Etan vanished in 1979.
Miller, now 75, has never been charged with raping his niece and his lawyer, Michael Farkas, told the Post that he had not heard of the ex-wife's claims.
Police have been aware of Miller, a Jamaican immigrant, since the boy vanished as he walked alone for the first time to get to his school bus stop.
However, Jose Ramos, who did odd-jobs for Miller, was held responsible for the boy’s death in a civil case. Ramos is currently in jail serving a 20 year sentence for abusing two other boys.
It is believed that Etan's mother Julie Patz urged authorities to question Miller, who now lives in Brooklyn, after Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance reopened the case shortly after he took office in 2010.
Evidence: New York police and FBI agents remove pieces of concrete after continuing to dig up the basement believed to contain clues to the disappearance of Etan Patz
Excavation: The team finished digging up the floor of the basement on Saturday
It emerged yesterday that police had the opportunity to search the Manhattan basement formerly belonging to Miller soon after the six-year-old went missing - but decided not to because it would be too costly.
The FBI and NYPD returned to the place they had considered taking jackhammers to 33 years ago after questioning handyman Miller several times over the last few months.
And as the search continues into a third day one expert said that identifying the remains of the six-year-old is ‘do-able’ – if any are found.
Speaking outside the Soho property being dug up, Dr Lawrence Kobilinsky told the New York Daily News that improved technology would enable identification of skeletal remains.
'Over the past 30 years, we have benefited from improved technology in forensic science,’ Kobilinsky, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told the paper. ‘Identifying the bones of Etan Patz is certainly do-able.’
However, he described it as ‘questionable’ that the investigation would find any human remains and said the fact cadaver-sniffing dogs had appeared to find something - that could be animal decomposition or ‘somebody’s dinner.’
Keeping tabs: Etan's mother Julie looks out of her window at the scene of the investigation on Saturday
Looking on: Stanley Patz took pictures of the dig from his fire escape in the SoHo area
But even if no remains are found investigators could discover other evidence as the expert believed that the killer likely left behind clues. 'I don’t think they know enough forensics to destroy the evidence,' Kobilinsky told the Daily News. 'So there may very well be, in addition to a body, there may be other trace evidence that still remains even after 30 years.'
Despite the passing of more than three decades human bones can determine the age, height and ethnicity of a victim, he said.
A key issue is the fact that the 75-year-old performed a sudden renovation on the basement shortly after Etan's disappearance on May 25, 1979, in a house he would have passed on the way to the school bus belonging to a man who had befriended him just the night before.
Police sources told the New York Post that when they questioned Miller about pouring concrete over the floor he gave them permission to tear it up at their own cost, but cops decided it wasn't worth it.
The night before the disappearance of the six-year-old - who became the first missing child to appear on milk cartons - Miller was seen giving him a $1 bill as salary for helping him with his business.
Miller's lawyer argued that his client is innocent of any wrong-doing and has merely been helping police with their investigation.
NYPD and FBI investigators carry pieces of concrete out of a basement building on the corner of Wooster Street and Prince Street in the Manhattan borough of New York today as the search for Etan Patz continues
Analysis: The evidence gathered will be sent to a laboratory for further examination
Michael Farkas spoke to reporters outside the Brooklyn apartment of Othniel Miller, 75, to assure his client was a 'wonderful, hard-working man' who has been cooperating with the case for 30 years - though admitted it was the first time he had ever met him.
Mr Farkas said his client is very disturbed by the accusations.
He said: 'I'm going to assist him in cooperating to the fullest extent possible. He did not do this and denies any role in anything that may have happened.
'Like the rest of New Yorkers, Mr Miller is very disturbed by what's happening, he has always been very moved by what happened to the boy.'
The suspect’s son, Ansel Miller, spoke to the Post to saying that his father ‘didn’t get so much as a parking ticket’ in his life.
He told them that his father had an alibi and allowed police access to the basement at the time and added that Miller had suffered a stroke and a bad fall in recent years.
Mystery: Jose Ramos, was found responsible for Etan's death in a civil case, and Ramos is serving a 20 year jail sentence for molesting two other young boys
While the excavation of the basement has been underway, Etan's parents Stan and Julie Patz have been holed up in the same apartment they have lived in since his disappearance - wondering if the remains of their son had been mere yards away all this time.
Julie Patz was pictured watching from her window on Friday as FBI and local police broke up the floor of the workspace and carried away debris. Stanley Patz was spotted taking pictures of the crime scene from his fire escape just a block away.
They refused to speak to the media but posted a notice up outside their apartment saying: 'To all hard-working and patient MEDIA PEOPLE: The answer to all your questions at this time is "No Comment".'
Grieving: Julie Patz watched from her New York apartment as police hunted for clues in the disappearance of her six-year-old son Etan, who vanished over 33 years ago
Day two: FBI agents and New York City police officers remove concrete to sift through for evidence from the Prince Street apartment building after dogs picked up the scent of human remains
Interest: The nation's media gather at the New York site where the search for Etan Patz has resumed two years after it was reopen by Cy Vance
Police are said to be 'cautiously optimistic' the search will succeed after cadaver-sniffing dogs picked up the scent of human remains in the same area that was surfaced with fresh concrete.
NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly said an array of new technology unavailable to law enforcement in 1979 including x-rays and black lights are being used in the investigation. .
Though Miller was never named as a suspect in the initial investigation, police say they did search and examine his basement but didn't take it further because he had a credible alibi at the time.
When the FBI went back to Miller recently and told him their sniffer dogs picked up the smell of human remains, he allegedly blurted out: 'What if the body was moved?' according to the Post.
Miller was arrested in Florida in May 2004 for driving without a license. He owns two properties in the state, valued between $30,000 and $40,000.
Heavy duty: Utility workers with jackhammers and saws helped chip away an area around aging pipes before law enforcers carried out the basketball-size chunks of rubble
Scene: FBI agents take sifting equipment into the basement where NYPD and FBI investigators equipped with jackhammers and pickaxes are searching for the remains of Etan Patz in Soho, New York
Map: Etan went missing after leaving his home on 113 Prince Street on May 25, 1979. Today, police are searching premises a block away, on 127 Prince for his remains
Etan was finally declared legally dead in 2001, though no trace of his body has ever been found and the case remains unsolved.
He was last seen walking two blocks from his lower Manhattan home to a bus stop for the ride to school wearing his favorite Eastern Air Lines Future Flight Captain hat - something his parents said he would even wear to bed.
It was the first time his parents had let their son walk to school alone, after he begged them, saying all his friends were allowed to do it.
In May 2010, the Manhattan district attorney’s office said they were taking a fresh look at the decades-old case of the missing six-year-old.
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said Friday they expect to be at the site for two to three days.
Tip off: The SoHo building the FBI have been searching in since 8.30am was along the path where the blond-haired boy disappeared
Search: NYPD and FBI investigators equipped with jackhammers and pickaxes entered a concrete-floored basement underneath Lucky Jeans on Prince Street in the SoHo section of New York
Mr Browne said: 'We're looking for human remains, clothing or other personal effects of Etan Patz. It's a very painstaking process. But nothing has been found yet.'
The 13-foot by 62-foot basement space being searched today sits beneath several clothing boutiques.
The building has undergone renovations over the decades, and Browne said investigators began by removing drywall partitions so they could get to brick walls that were exposed back in 1979 when the boy disappeared.
Etan was the subject of one of the most extensive missing-child searches ever.
An imprisoned child molester - Joel Ramos - was declared the prime suspect.
He admitted to trying to molest Etan on the day he disappeared but claims he did not kill him. He was dating the six-year-old's babysitter at the time.
The SoHo building the FBI have been searching in since 8.30am Thursday was along the path where the blond-haired boy disappeared.
His parents have never moved from their home, in the hope their son would one day find his way back. Nor have they changed their phone number, as Etan knew it off by heart.
Etan's disappearance brought national attention to the issue of missing kids, with May 25 declared National Missing Children’s Day.
Hope: Throughout the last 33 years, police - and the Patzes - have re-released pictures of Etan and wanted posters in the hope of either finding him or his body
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2133091/Handymans-basement-dug-search-Etan-Patz-FBI-tip-accuses-raping-niece-10-years-boy-vanishes.html#ixzz1slqTh8YJ
In: Regional News
Tags: , Handymans-basement-dug-search-Etan-Patz-FBI-tip-accuses-raping-niece-10-years-boy-vanishes
Location: New York, New York, United States (load item map)
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