By Murray Weiss and Paul Lomax
MANHATTAN - As investigators searching for the remains of Etan Patz finished removing the concrete floor of a SoHo basement, a report surfaced that the prime suspect, Othniel Miller, was accused of raping his 10-year-old niece, source said.
Miller was using the basement of 127 Prince St. as a workshop in 1979, when 6-year-old Etan disapppeared as he walked alone to the bus stop for the first time.
A few years after that, he allegedly raped his 10-year-old niece, his ex-wife told FBI agents recently, forming partof the basis for obtaining a search warrant for the excavation, sources said.
Miller's wife told agents she left him over the allegations, sources said.
FBI investigators have yet to track down the niece to confirm the story, sources said.
Miller's lawyer, Michael Farkas, said he had heard the allegation for the first time on Saturday and couldn't comment.
The allegation was first reported in the New York Post.
Meanwhile, the entire basement floor of 127 Prince St. has been removed and the painstaking process of sifting through the underlying dirt for evidence is beginning.
"All the concrete is out. Next we're going to comb through all of the dirt for clues. It's a very meticulous process," FBI Special Agent Timothy Flannelly told DNAinfo. "We're cautiously optimistic about this search."
Smith said 30 to 40 agents are working on the joint FBI-NYPD investigation.
Locals too are anxious about a possible denouement in the long cold case.
"I've been following this story for thirty (30) years," said PR consultant Bill Dobbs, who lives nearby. "Everyone in the neighborhood is hoping for a resolution to this case. It's still creepy after all these years as it's so close to home."