About 40 FBI agents and New York City police officers lugged hundreds of pounds of concrete out of a basement in SoHo today in their search for new evidence in the 1979 disappearance of Etan Patz.
As of this writing, authorities have not found a body in the basement of 127 Prince Street, where neighborhood handyman — and “target” of the new investigation — Othneil Miller, 75, had a workshop at the time of Patz’s disappearance. Now the building is a high-end shoe store.
Investigators spent a large portion of the afternoon moving chunks of concrete — and buckets of smaller rubble — from the basement to a dumpster in the middle of Prince Street as dozens of reporters and onlookers watched.
Tourists were lovin’ it — one out-of-towner (from Pittsburgh), when told authorities were looking for the body of a boy who disappeared more than 30 years ago, said “that’s New York for ya!” Another dropped the standard “only in New York” on us (we almost gagged).
The dumpster was about a third of the way full when we left about 3 p.m.
The concrete taken from the basement, an F.B.I. official at the scene tells the Voice, will be taken to a landfill and quarantined just in case it needs to be re-examined by investigators.
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 on Prince Street.
The scent pads from the basement were then taken to a cadaver dog, which got a “hit” indicating that human remains are — or were — somewhere in the basement.
Miller has not been arrested, or charged with any crimes.
Law enforcement officials expect the investigation of the basement on Prince Street to take several days.