Wednesday, June 9, 2010
by Lisa R. Cohen
As I wrote in my last post, Cyrus Vance Jr. is beginning his new term as Manhattan's District Attorney by taking a different tack than his predecessor, the legendary Robert Morgenthau.
Morgenthau meted out criminal justice in New York City for three decades until finally retiring in January. Throughout almost his entire reign, he demurred from pursuing the infamous Etan Patz case. "Not enough evidence," he'd say, on the few occasions he even deigned to comment.
The case involved the disappearance of six-year-old Etan Patz off the streets of New York on his way to the bus stop, walking the two blocks on his own for the first time ever. He was never seen again. The mystery sparked a nationwide manhunt and a shift in our cultural sense of safety.
Even if you didn't read my last post, you would know from reading any one of numerous headlines, or watching ABC News Nightline's lengthy top story last Friday, that Vance has revealed he's taking a fresh look at the 31-year-old case with an eye to (hopefully) bringing charges against Jose Antonio Ramos.
Ramos is coming to the end of a very long prison stint in Pennsylvania for molesting two boys back in the '80s. He's due out in November 2012, unless a new charge can start the clock ticking again. Since there's no statute of limitations for murder, nor, in some situations, for felony kidnapping, the Patz case might be the way to do it. But people need to know more about Ramos to understand why people like Stuart GraBois, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, have fought so hard for so many years to keep him locked up.
Ramos's mug shot, grim and forbidding, has been splashed across the tabloids for years, but few have ever really talked to him, or even met him.
I have, and it's not an experience I'd want to repeat. When he refused to talk to me for my book, AFTER ETAN, I was disappointed. But part of me was glad not to face the barrage of invective and crazy I'd been through on the first go round, for a prison interview I produced at ABC News back in 1991, the only time Ramos has ever talked on camera.
Joey didn't appear traumatized, just slightly uncomfortable, mostly unaware that he would be affected for the rest of his life. That's exactly the kind of victim Ramos would go after. A boy, often, although one father I talked to said Ramos used to wheel his pre-verbal twin toddlers off to babysit for hours at a time, and we'll never know what happened to them on his watch.