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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

While Pennsylvania Department of Corrections staff make sure that departing inmates fill out the registration forms completely and provide additional assistance to sex offenders who can't read and write, it's the responsibility of the inmate to provide accurate and truthful information, department spokeswoman Susan Bensinger said.

"There is only so much we can do to encourage the inmate to fill out the form correctly," she said. "As far as being accurate, that's up to the offender."

But defense lawyers who represent sex offenders in Megan's Law cases said they suspect Ramos was set up to fail. They said long-term inmates often don't know where they will live and mark down a long-ago address because that's the one they know.

Prison staff "would have had every opportunity prior to his exit to say, 'Hey, did you know that Great Aunt Sadie doesn't live there?'" said Elisabeth K. H. Pasqualini, an attorney in Millersburg, Pa. "This could have all been prevented.

To be convicted of violating Pennsylvania's Megan's Law, Ramos must be found to have knowingly misled state police. Court documents say prison staff warned him he'd be committing a felony if he didn't follow the requirements of the law.

Earlier this year, a new suspect named Pedro Hernandez was charged with Etan's murder after police said he confessed. Hernandez's lawyer, Harvey Fishbein, has said Hernandez, of Maple Shade, N.J., is mentally ill, and authorities have not cited any additional evidence to implicate him beyond his own admission.

Ramos was declared responsible for Etan's death in a civil court in 2004, but the Manhattan district attorney's office has said there wasn't enough evidence to charge him criminally. Ramos has denied any involvement in Etan's disappearance.

Prosecutors are expected this month to announce whether they believe there's enough evidence to continue pursuing a case against Hernandez, who worked at a convenience store near Etan's home when the boy disappeared and told police he strangled the boy and stuffed his body in a trash bag.

The Manhattan district attorney's office had no comment Wednesday. Etan's parents have asked to be left alone and did not respond to messages. An attorney for Hernandez, the current suspect, declined to comment.


Associated Press writers Colleen Long in New York and JoAnn Loviglio in Philadelphia contributed to this story.