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Former Etan Patz suspect freed in Pa., held again

Associated Press Modified: November 7, 2012 at 8:16 pm •  Published: November 7, 2012

A former suspect in the 1979 disappearance of a New York City boy walked out of a northeastern Pennsylvania prison Wednesday morning after more than a quarter-century behind bars and was promptly arrested by state police, accused of a Megan's Law violation.

Jose Antonio Ramos lied to police about where he planned to live after his release, supplying the Bronx address of a cousin who hadn't lived there in decades, according to arrest papers.

"When he walked out of the main gate, he was taken into custody by troopers," Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Richard Krawetz said.

Ramos, 69, was arraigned on a felony charge of failure to register as a sex offender. A magistrate set bail at $75,000, and Ramos was sent to the Luzerne County jail.

He had long been suspected in the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz, who vanished May 25, 1979, after leaving his Manhattan home to go to a bus stop two blocks away. Ramos had been dating the boy's baby sitter.

Etan's disappearance prompted a massive international search and spawned a movement to publicize cases of missing children. His photo was among the first put on milk cartons, and his case turned May 25 into National Missing Children's Day.

His parents never moved or changed their phone number, in case he returned. In 2001, they obtained a court order officially declaring him dead.

Ramos had previously declined a jailhouse interview with The Associated Press, citing civil ligation against the prison.

"After Nov. 7, 2012, I will be available to meet with you and any other members of the media at a secure location in Manhattan for an interview. Please let me know if it's convenient for you," he wrote.

Ramos entered the Pennsylvania prison system on March 27, 1987, and served all of his 27-year sentence for molesting two other boys. He was released from the prison in Dallas on Wednesday morning after being given credit for the time he'd spent in county jail prior to his conviction.

A few weeks before his release, Ramos' counselor and a prison records specialist had him fill out the required Megan's Law registration form, according to court documents.

But when New York City police checked out the address he provided, they found no one living there who knew Ramos. And when police tracked down the cousin whose name Ramos had listed, she told them she hadn't had any contact with him in 35 years and did not plan to allow him to live with her.

"Family members were frightened of Ramos when he would visit," a police affidavit said.

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