By Murray Weiss, Paul Lomax and Tom Liddy
MANHATTAN — Investigators put the search for Etan Patz's remains on hold Sunday because of a storm that was bearing down on the city — a day after they found a piece of drywall with a "stain of interest" in the SoHo basement they've been searching, according to sources and reports.
The discovery was made as probers were tearing apart the concrete floor and walls in 127 Prince St. in an effort to unearth new clues in the disappearance of Patz, who vanished at the age of 6 in 1979 as he walked to the bus stop alone for the first time, WNBC/Channel 4 first reported and DNAinfo confirmed.
The meticulous search continued Sunday but was suspended for the day at 2 p.m. due to the weather and several other reasons, according to sources and the Associated Press.
It was not immediately clear if anything had been found, but investigators were seen carrying black garbage bags from the building.
An FBI spokesman said that they would be there "as long as it takes" and that the search would continue Monday morning.
The nature or significance of the stain found Saturday was not immediately clear, but the evidence was sent to the FBI's lab in Virginia for analysis along with other debris, sources said.
The development came amid reports that the FBI had questioned a man, Jesse Snell, who had done work for handyman Othneil Miller, now considered the prime suspect in Patz's disappearance.
Snell was spotted at the building that investigators are probing, which was Miller's former workspace, the morning that Patz disappeared, NBC said.
Probers began looking at the space after Miller's ex-wife told FBI agents as part of the renewed investigation that the suspect had raped his 10-year-old niece several years after Patz disappeared.
FBI investigators have yet to track down the niece to confirm the story, according to sources, and Miller's lawyer, Michael Farkas, said that he first heard the allegation Saturday and couldn't comment.
FBI and police spokesmen declined comments on the reports.
Patz's disappearance 33 years ago captivated the city. He was declared dead in 2001 despite the fact that his body had never been found.
Convicted sex offender Jose Ramos sat atop the list of suspects after he admitted being with the boy the day he disappeared, but no one has ever been arrested.
Ramos, who reportedly worked for Miller, was given a key to the basement workshop at the Prince Street building, sources said.
The case was reopened by the Manhattan District Attorney's office in 2010.