April 23, 2012 -- The latest chapter in the 33-year search for Etan Patz -- the digging up of a basement in New York City's SoHo district -- has ended with no human remains, no "aha" moment, and only a few reeds of possible evidence in the hundreds of pounds of debris now packed into dumpsters.
Sources said that a "stain of interest" had tested negative in initial field tests to determine whether it was blood.
The stain surfaced under investigation with Luminal, a chemical used in forensic investigations to highlight bits of blood or other organic material not visible to the human eye. The stain initially appeared to possibly be blood when first discovered.
A more complete test of the material is being conducted by the FBI at the agency lab in Quantico, Va.
The search also found some human hair, but not blonde hair like that of the young boy who vanished on his way to school 33 years ago.
Today will be a day for winding down the operation on Prince Street.
"The FBI has concluded the on-site portion of the search. The street and local businesses will be re-opened," spokesman J. Peter Donald said in a statement today.
Authorities met with the Patz family around 3 p.m. Sunday when the day's digging was concluded to inform them of the outcome of the search. They were told what had been found, and what, significantly, had not been found: human remains or other clear evidence that their son had been inside that basement prior to his disappearance.
Patz was 6 at the time he disappeared on the morning of May 25, 1979, soon after leaving his parents' apartment at 113 Prince St., the first time he was to walk to the school bus stop by himself. The boy's disappearance sparked a citywide search that decades later led authorities back to handyman Othniel Miller's small basement workshop, this time to excavate it after cadaver dogs detected the smell of human remains.
The possible evidence was discovered in the basement that was once used as a kids' play area, which doubled as Miller's workspace. Miller, according to authorities, was seen with Patz the night before he disappeared.
"The FBI has been here to investigate the case," Stephaine Miller, Othniel Miller's daughter, said. "He cooperated with them and went to the site and he doesn't have anything to do with it."
Miller, now 75, has not been named a suspect in the Patz disappearance, but he has been questioned.
"Mr. Miller denies involvement with what has happened to this beautiful young boy," his attorney, Michael Farkas, said. "Mr. Miller has been cooperating with this investigation for over 30 years."
He added, "Just as we recently witnessed in the Trayvon Martin case, people with access to unconfirmed information about the Etan Patz investigation have leaked those secrets to the news media for their own inappropriate purposes. Random bits of uncorroborated information and supposition, the types of which law enforcement hopes will lead to actual competent evidence, serve no purpose in the public domain other than to skew public opinion and malign unfortunate individuals who cannot effectively respond."
Since the boy's 1979 disappearance, a man named Jose Ramos, who is a convicted child molester, has been considered the prime suspect, although he has denied any connection.
Etan Patz disappearance without a trace and was one of the first major missing child cases to receive national attention. Although he was never found, the images of the boy were never forgotten. The boy's parents never changed their phone number, and told ABC News two years ago that they never moved, in the hopes that one day their boy would come home.
"We didn't know what had happened to him, so, of course, the thought in the backs of our minds was always that we should be here for him," father Stanley Patz said on "20/20."
Etan Patz Investigation Has Disappointing End
Former ABC News Producer Lisa Cohen wrote a book on the case entitled "After Etan: The Missing Child Case That Held America Captive," which made national headlines. Cohen, who recently spoke with Etan's father again, said, "He is just so grateful that they're actually moving forward with the case. And if anything happens, it can bring some kind of peace to that family."
Authorities investigating the case are using technological advances that can even detect whether a body was moved to reinvestigate the cold case. Vast improvements in technology since Patz disappeared, including agents that detect traces of blood and ground penetrating radar, are allowing investigators to crack "relatively old" cold cases by looking beyond what the eye can see.
Still, in a statement to ABC News, the FBI said that there is still not a significant amount of solid new evidence to report on at this time.
"It's important not to read too much into anything at this time," the statement said. "The process of removing material, sorting it and analyzing it proceeds at a deliberate pace."