A man claiming to be Etan Patz, the six-year-old boy who vanished nearly 36 years ago in New York City, has caused the parents of the missing boy to relive the agony of their son’s disappearance. All this is currently happening as a murder trial continues for a man accused of strangling Etan Patz and dumping his body in the garbage.
But even the trial is emblematic of the frustration and confusion surrounding the 1979 case, which became a tragic icon of a dark side of American culture, as Etan Patz became the first missing child to be featured on a milk carton.
But it wasn’t until 2001, 22 years after Etan Patz mysteriously disappeared while walking to his school bus stop by himself for the first time, that authorities declared the child — who would have been 28 years old if he were alive, to be dead.
The man on trial for murdering Etan,Pedro Hernandez, 53, confessed in 2012. But police have long suspected another man in the presumed killing of the Patz boy, Jose Ramos, who was a boyfriend of one of the boy’s babysitters — and a convicted pedophile.
While Ramos has never been charged with any crime in connection with Etan Patz, he remains incarcerated in Pennsylvania for other child sex crimes. And Ramos actually confessed to attempting to sexually molest Etan, but stopped short of admitting any responsibility for the boy’s death or disappearance.
Stanley Patz, Etan’s father sued Ramos for wrongful death and won the case. But though Ramos was found responsible for killing Etan Patz in a civil court, in a criminal court it is Pedro Hernandez standing trial.
And to complicate matters, shortly after Hernandez made his confession in 2012 — a confession his lawyers say that Hernandez, who has a reported IQ of 70, made falsely — a mysterious man paid a visit to Stanley and Julie Patz, declaring, “I’m your son. I’m Etan. I’ve come home.” The man even brought a suitcase.
In fact, over the years, and especially since the trial of Hernandez has brought renewed publicity to the Etan Patz case, dozens of people — some well-intentioned, but some just weirdos — have claimed to be the missing boy.
And now, in the midst of the trial, another man — identified only the surname “Dillon” — has come forward claiming to be the long-lost Etan Patz, causing the Patz family to relive their agony yet again.
The man making the latest claim is approximately the same age as Etan Patz would have been, said Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, but the similarities appear to end there.