NEW YORK — Police and the FBI searched a Manhattan basement Thursday for the remains of a 6-year-old boy whose 1979 disappearance on his way to school helped launch a missing children's movement that put kids' faces on milk cartons.
Etan Patz vanished on May 25, 1979, after leaving his family's SoHo apartment for a short walk to catch a school bus. It was the first time his parents had let him go off to school alone.
A forensic team planned to dig up the concrete floor and remove drywall partitions to find blood, clothing or human remains in the building, just down the street from Etan's home, police spokesman Paul Browne said. The work is expected to take up to five days.
FBI and police officials didn't publicly announce what led them to the site, but a law enforcement official told the Associated Press that investigators decided to dig after an FBI dog detected the scent of human remains at the building in the past few weeks.
Investigators have long eyed the basement with curiosity because it can be accessed from the street on the boy's route to school. At the time, the space was being used as a workshop by a neighborhood handyman who was thought to have been friendly with Etan.
FBI investigators have interviewed the man several times over the years. Investigators questioned him again recently, and as a result of those discussions decided to refocus their attention on the building, according to the law enforcement official.
Etan was declared legally dead in 2001, but nobody has been charged in the case.
Etan's disappearance drew national attention to child safety. His face was among the first to appear on milk cartons. President Ronald Reagan declared May 25, the day of his disappearance, National Missing Children's Day.