The world has seen several sad cases of missing children. While there are some stories that end happily, with the child reuniting with the family, even after many years, some end terribly. There are a good number of cases that have even remained unsolved after many decades. But what is the most famous missing child case? And how did it play out over the years?
The case of Etan Patz is the most famous missing child case we know about. The American boy was just six years old on May 25, 1979, when he disappeared. He was reportedly walking from his home to his school bus stop in the SoHo neighborhood of Lower Manhattan by himself for the first time. He was never seen again.
Etan Patz’s disappearance was widely reported. He was the first missing child to have his photo printed on milk cartons. His disappearance was a major triggering factor in the launch of the missing child movement. It resulted in new legislation, as well as new methods for tracking down missing children. In 1983, about four years after Etan Patz’s disappearance, then-President Ronald Reagan declared the day of his disappearance, May 25, as the National Missing Children’s Day in the United States.
More than three decades after Etan Patz’s disappearance, the case was reopened. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office reopened the case in 2010, and it took several years to convict and sentence the man behind Etan’s disappearance. It was determined that the six-year-old boy had been kidnapped and murdered the same day he went missing. Though no new evidence was found when the FBI excavated the basement of the alleged crime scene, the confession of the prime suspect, Pedro Fernandez, was admitted and used in the trial.
When Pedro Fernandez confessed to the murder of Etan Patz, police didn’t have physical evidence to collaborate the confession. His sister, Nina Hernandez, and his brother-in-law, Jose Lopez, made statements that confirmed that Fernandez had previously confessed to the crime in the 80s. He was indicted in 2012, and his trial took a long time. He finally sentenced in 2017 to 25-years-to-life in prison and will not be eligible for parole for 25 years.