Nightly News   |  April 19, 2012

Searching for Etan Patz

The 6-year-old disappeared in 1979, but the FBI says they are optimistic that they can ‘bring closure’ to the investigation. NBC’s Ron Allen reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> now to the case of a missing child that really changed everything when it bufrs into the news. his name was etan patz . he was 6 years old when he disappeared in 1979 . he vanished on his way to school in new york city . as one writer said today, quote, it made a generation of parents afraid to send their children out alone. and suddenly today, we got word fbi agents were digging around in a new york city building. nbc's ron allen is in lower manhattan tonight with details on this. ron, good evening.

>> good evening to you, brian. it's been a remarkable scene down here, almost as if the crime just happened. dozens of fbi investigators and new york police investigatorses a well right here on the street where etan vanished so long ago. teams of forensic experts converged on a basement in new york's soho district, a place 30 years ago was a workshop and storage area. continuing a search, reviving a mystery that consumed new york city and a nation, looking for any sign of etan patz .

>> he disappeared in 1979 . at this point, we're still optimistic, we can bring closure to the investigation.

>> etan was 6 when he left home one morning alone, on a two-block walk to catch a school bus . his parents, stanley and julie patz have been searching for their son ever since.

>> it just overwhelms you and you think you're going to fall to pieces .

>> that question, that big unknown, will be ever see him again, constantly troubles me. i doubt a day goes by when i don't ask myself the question of what happened to my son?

>> the search went worldwide. he was among the first missing children to be featured on a milk carton . president reagan declared the day he disappeared, may 25th , national missing childrens day .

>> it gives me chills because i remember that date so clearly.

>> judy's daughter was 7 then and caught the bus with etan in this big city neighborhood with a small town feel.

>> everybody in the neighborhood with kids after that day, no more walking to the bus stop alone. that was it.

>> two years ago, manhattan's newly elected district attorney revisited the case. a search dog recently detected a human scent in the building being searched today. police sources also say a local handyman recently had been questioned in the case, while people here hope there's finally some resolution for a family that still lives in the neighborhood.

>> to be taken and grabbed and not know what happened is painful and my heart goes out to them.

>> investigators say they're ripping out sheetrock walls that were not there when the crime happened so long ago. they're also digging up a cement floor and going to do excavation work. that's an operation that could take several days. there's no word on other aspects of the investigation. etan would have been 40 this coming october.

>> hard to believe. ron allen on one of the enduring mysteries in new york city