Etan Patz Investigation Returns to SoHo Basement

Police leave with bags of possible evidence taken from basement.

August 8, 2012, 5:11 PM

Aug. 8, 2012— -- Investigators returned to the lower Manhattan basement today where first-grader Etan Patz was allegedly murdered in 1979, the latest attempt to find clues in a case that has gripped and haunted New York City for 33 years.

Police removed several large bags of material from the site where Patz's accused killer told investigators earlier this year that he killed the boy.

Police in May arrested Pedro Hernandez, 51, a former bodega stock clerk who claimed he killed the blond 6-year-old. He told cops he lured the boy into the store's basement, steps from the Patz family home, and strangled him.

The bodega is now an eyeglass shop on Prince Street in the tony Manhattan neighborhood of SoHo.

Today's search was carried out because police gained access to part of the site previously inaccessible to them.

"We always intended to go back to the location," said Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne, "We did so at a time that was more convenient to the owner."

Browne said there were "no new developments" nor was there any new information that brought police back to the location.

Sources said investigators were looking for physical evidence that Patz had been there, including clothing, blood and DNA that may have survived more than three decades.

Patz disappeared on May 25, 1979, the first time he was allowed to walk from his home to his school's bus stop by himself.

The case, one of the longest and most heart-wrenching in the city's history, was reopened this year following the election of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.

Hernandez is charged with second degree murder. He has told police he strangled Patz and stuffed his body in a plastic bag that was thrown into trash elsewhere in the neighborhood. The body was never found.

Hernandez had admitted to family members and friends as early as 1981 that he "done a bad thing and killed a child in New York." Someone went to police in April after police searched the basement, but found nothing linking Patz to that room.

Currently, the case against Hernandez hangs on his confession. Sources said police hoped to find evidence that corroborates Hernandez's story.

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