Etan Patz Case Still Captivates 30 Years Later

Karen Altman had already come and gone, taking Shira and little Ari back across the street, where she made everyone soup. There would be no more talk about the trip upstate. Instead, 2-year-old Ari Patz watched the goings-on from the Altmans' front window. This was turning into his second sleepover in a row and his first away from home, but he didn't cry. When Shira and Chelsea stopped playing cards in the other room and drifted off to sleep, Ari stayed at the front window. His face pressed up against the panes of glass that stretched the length of the Altman loft, he watched his mother and father, moving from the street below to the Patz front room across the way, and back again. The Patzes' tall windows showcased the blur of activity. From her vantage point over Ari's shoulder, Karen Altman watched Stan too, as his wiry frame paced the length of sidewalk in front of the building, the floodlights illuminating his thin, now pinched face. Karen could see just by the way Stan was holding himself and by the expressions on his face that he was enraged. Not at the cops, not at his wife, but at the gods, she thought. She half expected him to start shaking his fist at the skies. The gods seemed to be piling on when, shortly before midnight, they began spitting on the searchers in a slow, steady drizzle. By 1:15 a.m., when authorities requested bloodhounds to be brought in from upstate, any traces of Etan— his prints or a scent the dogs could follow— were in the process of being washed away.

"Wouldn't it be awful," whispered Karen's husband, Larry, from behind her and just out of Ari's earshot, "if they never found Etan, and they never found out what happened?"

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