May 5, 2004
NEW YORK — A Manhattan judge has ruled that an imprisoned child molester
is responsible for the disappearance and presumed death of 6-year-old
Etan Patz in 1979.
State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Kapnick said she declared Jose R.
Ramos responsible for the boy’s death because he disobeyed her orders to
answer deposition questions under oath for a lawyer representing Etan’s
Ramos, a former mental patient serving a 20-year sentence for the sex
abuse of an 8-year-old boy, was interviewed in April 2003 by Brian
O’Dwyer, lawyer for Stanley and Julia Patz, Etan’s parents. O’Dwyer said
Ramos refused to answer many of his questions.
Etan was the subject of one of the most extensive missing-child searches
ever after he vanished May 25, 1979, while walking from his lower
Manhattan home to a bus stop two blocks away for the ride to school. His
face was the first of a missing child to be put on the side of a milk
In a court hearing in 2002 in which Etan was officially declared dead,
the missing child’s court-appointed guardian, Roger Olson, said Ramos
once confided to a cellmate, “Etan is dead. There is no body, and there
will never be a body.”
The Patzes filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in 2001 against Ramos, who was
always the chief suspect in Etan’s disappearance. Kapnick ordered him to
answer O’Dwyer’s deposition questions or risk being declared responsible
for the boy’s death.
Ramos, who had dated Etan’s baby sitter, argued unsuccessfully after the
deposition that the lawsuit should be dismissed. Kapnick ruled against
him last week.
O’Dwyer said Tuesday that his clients will ask Kapnick “to issue an
injunction that will prevent Ramos from ever being in a room again with a
“Money is not the issue,” O’Dwyer said, noting that Ramos will serve his
maximum prison term by 2012. “We’re trying to fashion a remedy that, at
least in New York in Judge Kapnick’s jurisdiction, will keep him from
harming another child.”
The criminal investigation into Etan’s disappearance is continuing, a
spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office said.
© 2004 by The Associated Press