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Medical Examiner Joins NYPD In Etan Patz Basement Search

By Murray Weiss | August 10, 2012 3:42pm

NEW YORK CITY — The NYPD returned for a second time in three days to the former Soho bodega where Etan Patz was allegedly murdered — this time accompanied by two technicians from the Medical Examiner’s Office who used sophisticated equipment to detect whether any human remains might be buried there, DNAInfo.com New York has learned.

The OCME experts, including a forensic anthropologist, and two detectives from the NYPD Crime Scene Unit spent two hours Friday inside the basement of 448 Broadway where Pedro Hernandez, 51, has confessed to luring and strangling the 6-year-old boy on May 25, 1979.

After taking samples and examining the basement of what now is an eyeglass shop, the crew of investigators departed without finding any new clues in the sensational case that changed the way America viewed children disappearances, sources said.

Investigators used a high-powered microscope to search for fibers or hair, but none were found, sources said.

A worker at a nearby restaurant said she saw a van marked "Medical Examiner" parked outside the building. But unlike Thursday, investigators didn't remove anything from the scene, the restaurant employee said. "They weren't pulling anything out," the employee said. "They were just going in."

The presence of the cops this week at the Patz crime scene shows that the investigation is moving, and that detectives and prosecutors are making sure they've done all they can to perfect their case against Hernandez.

On Monday, detectives and Emergency Services officers went into the basement to break into an old storage room where coal that fueled the building’s furnace used to be kept, sources told DNAinfo.com New York.

All they found was garbage.

When detectives first swarmed the building after Hernandez's arrest in May, they found the room inaccessible, save for small apertures where coal could be dumped in from a chute above and shoveled out through an opening at the bottom.

Detectives could peer into it, but could not get in.

When cops returned to the building Wednesday, they were with Emergency Service Unit officers equipped with saws and other tools to cut through the wall. Because the room housed coal for so long, cops first did an air quality check to ensure no noxious fumes would be released, sources said.

Once inside the coal room, though, they found nothing related to the boy's disappearance.

Evidence teams collected all the trash they found, sources said, but they do not believe it will yield any clues to what happened to Etan.

Detectives also spent a couple of hours taking a complete new set of photographs of the basement, including the coal room, in the event Hernandez’s stunning confession to the 1979 murder case is presented to a grand jury.

The new activity at the old bodega where Hernandez worked as an 18-year-old teen came hours after DNAinfo’s “On The Inside” column reported new insights into the murder probe.

Topping the list of new details was the revelation that Hernandez’s first wife told detectives she found a photo of Patz in her husband’s personal belongings in the the mid 1980s. 

She said the photo of  the smiling,  blond-haired six-year-old appeared to have been cut out from one of the Missing Persons posters that circulated for years after Etan's May 25, 1979 disappearance.

DNAinfo.com New York also reported that cops never interviewed Hernandez after Etan vanished, and moved away just weeks after the case grabbed national attention.

Detectives working the case now are "absolutely convinced" Hernandez is the killer, but found his name mentioned only once in a single police report from 1979, which said he was working on the day Patz disappeared. There was no follow up interview with him, the NYPD concluded.

Despite their confidence in the case against Hernandez, some investigators who worked the case over the years are skeptical and believe that Jose Ramos, a convicted pedophile who used to date Etan’s babysitter, is the prime suspect.

In fact, a Manhattan Civil Court judge ruled Ramos responsible for Patz death in 2004.

Ramos is expected to complete a lengthy sentence for child abuse in Pennsylvania in October, around the same time Hernandez is next due in a Manhattan court.

Hernandez, who is schizophrenic, is presently being held on Rikers Island after undergoing psychological evaluation at Bellevue Medical Center.

Etan disappeared after being allowed to walk to a school bus stop alone for the first time.

With reporting Dan Rivoli.