NEW YORK (AP) — A man who thinks he could be Etan Patz was interviewed by police amid the murder trial of a suspect accused in the boy's 1979 disappearance, prosecutors said Tuesday, noting they have received similar calls before.
Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said the man "had a thought in his head" he could be the boy who vanished at 6, and he had been born at the right time, so she asked police to interview him. She said the man's last name is Dillion but gave no other details.
Dozens of people have claimed to be the sandy-haired Etan since he vanished on his way to school. He was among the first missing children to be pictured on milk cartons. His mother, Julie Patz, testified about some of the claims earlier at the trial.
Detectives on the case over the years have received thousands of fruitless tips. Illuzzi-Orbon said the calls continue as the trial gets publicity.
"As this trial goes on ... reported in the media, we get phone calls from people," she said. "Some people are concerned that maybe they're Etan."
Illuzzi-Orbon handed over a police report to attorneys for Pedro Hernandez, who is on trial in Etan's death after confessing to choking the boy. Hernandez was a teenage stock clerk at a convenience store near where the boy's bus stop was located. He has said he lured Etan to the basement with a promise of a soda and then killed him, stuffed the body in a bag, put the bag in a produce box and tossed it a few blocks away.
Defense attorneys say that the confession is the fictional ravings of a mentally ill man and that longtime suspect Jose Ramos, a convicted pedophile, is the real killer. They suggested the store was too busy for a murder to take place unseen. But a former store worker testified this week that he was once injured in the basement of the convenience store, and no one could hear him scream for help.
Ramos, who remains jailed on a Megan's Law violation, was never charged criminally and says he didn't do it. But he was declared responsible for Etan's death in a civil court.
Illuzzi-Orbon legally had to disclose the information to the attorneys. The trial is proceeding.
Etan's body was never found, nor was any stitch of clothing. After his disappearance, Etan's parents helped modernize how law enforcement nationwide handles cases of missing children. May 25, the day he vanished, became National Missing Children's Day.