KINGTON TWP. — A man once considered the prime suspect in the 1979 disappearance of a New York City boy was released from the State Correctional Institution at Dallas on Wednesday, then immediately arrested on a Megan's Law violation.
Jose Antonio Ramos, 69, was immediately taken into custody on charges he provided false information on a sexual offender registration form, according to an arrest affidavit. He had just completed a 27-year sentence for molesting children in Erie County, Pa.
Ramos had long been a suspect 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. Patz became the first child ever to appear on milk cartons as part of a nationwide program designed to locate missing children.
Investigators had focused on Ramos, in part because he had been dating the boy's babysitter. He was declared responsible for Patz'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.
A new suspect, Pedro Hernandez, was charged with Patz's murder earlier this year after police said he confessed. His attorney has said Hernandez is mentally ill, and authorities have not cited any additional evidence to implicate him beyond his own admission.
Prosecutors are expected this month to announce whether they believe there's evidence enough to continue pursuing a case against Hernandez, who worked at a convenience store near Patz's home.
The latest charges stem from inaccurate information Ramos reported on a sex offender registration form.
Ramos was required to register as a sex offender under Megan's Law based on his 1990 guilty plea to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse in a case unrelated to the Patz investigation.
Sex offenders are required to provide state police the address at which they intend to reside 10 days before their release from prison.
According to an arrest affidavit filed by state police at Wyoming:
Ramos told officials at SCI Dallas that he intended to live with his cousin at an apartment on Leggett Avenue in New York City. New York City police contacted the cousin and learned she had not agreed to allow Ramos to live with her, and she had not lived at the Leggett Avenue address for more than 30 years.
Police also contacted several other residents of the apartment complex, all of whom said they did not know Ramos.
Ramos declined to comment on either the new charges or the Patz case as he sat in District Judge James Tupper's courtroom Wednesday.
Tupper arraigned Ramos on a charge of failing to register as sex offender, a first-degree felony. He was remanded to the Luzerne County Correctional Facility for lack of $75,000 straight bail.
Ramos protested the amount of the bail, saying, Wow, that's a lot.
Tupper explained that the charge was a first-degree felony, and that Ramos did not have a permanent address.
If I get an address does that mean the bail will be reduced? Ramos asked.
You have to talk to the public defenders office about that, Tupper said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.