NEW YORK, New York — (DMN) – Police in New York have tracked down the niece of a handyman linked to Etan Patz’s disappearance and she backed up shocking rape claims which touched off a dramatic search in SoHo last week, law enforcement sources said today. FBI agents dug up the basement where handyman Othniel Miller used to work, at 127-B Prince St., in hopes of finding any evidence tying him to six-year-old Etan, who vanished without a trace on May 25, 1979. The excavation was sparked, in large part, to claims of Miller’s ex-wife, who said he had raped their niece when she was 12.
The niece, now living in New Jersey, was interviewed by NYPD detectives on April 17 and she corroborated her aunt’s accusation. The alleged attack was so long ago, it was outside the statute of limitations, law enforcement sources said. Agents began digging on Thursday morning and wrapped up Sunday night — and found no blood or human remains connected to Patz, according to field tests. Miller was a handyman who had a workshop down the street from 6-year-old Etan’s lower Manhattan apartment building back in 1979. He allegedly gave the boy $1 for help with chores the night before he disappeared, May 25, while walking to the school bus. The New York Daily News reports that on Sunday, the handyman’s stepson Jason Webley insisted Miller’s ex “made that up” regarding the rape allegation, and that he would never hurt a child. “You can’t swear for anyone, but I don’t think he’s in any way, form, or fashion involved in this,” Webley said.