By Debbie Emery – Radar Reporter
The innocent smile and warm happy eyes of six-year-old Etan Patz were seared into the memories of all those who picked up cartons of milk with his photo emblazoned on the side during the 1970s when police used the tactic for the first time to look for a missing child.
Now 33 years later, the cold case has been reopened and on Thursday federal investigators and the NYPD began tearing up a Manhattan apartment building in the hope of finally revealing what happened to the adorable little boy after he vanished on his way to a bus stop on May 25, 1979, reported ABCNews.com.
The new search was sparked by a cadaver dog who recorded a “hit” in the basement of the building on 127 Prince Street in the Soho neighborhood of the city, where a handyman and carpenter who had once befriended Patz had lived in apartment B.
Despite it being more than three decades since Etan is thought to have been killed, sources told ABC that even if a body had only been kept in the basement for 24 hours, a savvy-nosed sniffer dog would still able to detect it after all this time.
The handyman’s workshop was searched back when the boy disappeared but the newly resurfaced concrete floor was never dug up. Since then drywall has been placed over the bricks, which will be removed and the bricks examined and tested for blood evidence using advanced forensic techniques that were not available during the original investigation.
It is hoped that new evidence will end what has been known as the largest, longest lasting and most heart-wrenching hunt for a missing boy in recent history, and the extensive search raised awareness of child abductions and led to new ways to search for missing children, with then-President Ronald Reagan naming May 25 as National Missing Children’s Day.
“It’s a joint FBI- NYPD search for human remains clothing or personal effects,” NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told reporters outside the building after investigators entered using a search warrant on Thursday, adding that the current pain-staking process will take up to five days.
During a 2009 interview on ABC’s 20/20, Etan’s, father Stan Patz revealed the depth of his ongoing heartache, “I still gag with fear that this child must have felt … when he realized he was being betrayed by an adult,” he said.
Convicted child molester Jose Antonio Ramos, an acquaintance of Etan’s babysitter, had been identified as a suspect in the case, but was never charged. He remains in a Pennsylvania prison on unrelated charges.