The search for new evidence in the 1979 disappearance of Etan Patz resumed this morning, and a photo of the “target” of the investigation, neighborhood handyman, 75-year-old Othneil Miller, has surfaced.
The mugshot to the right was taken several years ago after Miller was arrested in Florida for driving with a suspended license. Aside from that arrest, we couldn’t find any other evidence that Miller’s been in any sort of legal trouble — in New York, anyway (he’s never been a guest of the state at a correctional facility, and he’s not listed on the state’s sex offender registry, for example).
Law enforcement sources say Miller had befriended Patz about the time of his disappearance and would often pay him a few dollars to help out around his shop, which was located in the building at 127 Prince Street, which is where investigators currently are searching for clues.
As of this writing, Miller has not been taken into custody, and is not charged with any crimes.
Patz — who was the first missing child to appear on the side of a milk carton — was last seen on May 25, 1979, as he was walking just two blocks to a bus stop on his way to school. It was the first time he’d made the trip alone. He was never seen again — and was declared dead in 2001.
When Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance took office two years ago, he re-opened the case and developed new leads that are currently being investigated by the NYPD and the Federal Bureau of Investigations. One of those leads came from Patz’s mother, Julie, who told authorities they should speak with Miller.
After speaking with Miller, law enforcement officials took “scent pads” — which allows investigators to “collect scent evidence from hard to access places” without destroying any other evidence, like fingerprints — to the basement of the building at 127 Prince Street, where Miller had a workshop at the time of Patz’s disappearance.
The scent pads from the basement were then taken to a cadaver dog, who got a “hit,” which indicates human remains are — or were — somewhere in the basement.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly appeared on MyFoxNY this morning and says investigators spent much of the day yesterday taking measurements in the basement. He says the concrete floor will eventually be torn up as investigators continue their search.
The search for new evidence is expected to last several days. Check back for updates.