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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Etan Patz Case Reopens Old Wounds

Andy Puglisi, shown before he was kidnapped. (National Center For Missing & Exploited Children)

By: Alex Ashlock

It was a hot summer day in 1976. Nine-year-old Melanie Perkins was one of the hundreds of kids hanging out at the Higgins Memorial Pool in Lawrence, Mass. She had a crush on 10-year-old Andy Puglisi, so she asked him to walk her home. He wanted to stay. She went to her home in the nearby projects. And she never saw Andy again.

Last week when the news about Pedro Hernandez’s confession in the Etan Patz case broke, Melanie Perkins was in her kitchen.

“I just burst into tears and I couldn’t stop crying,” she told Here & Now’s Robin Young. “I think it was the confession and his parents and what they must be going through right now and his childhood friends. I think everyone is just riveted to find out whether this story is going to have an ending or not.”

Missing Children Day In Massachusetts

There hasn’t been an ending for Andy Puglisi’s story. He’s one of 42 children in Massachusetts listed as missing by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

They’re getting some attention Wednesday at the State House in Massachusetts, where it is Missing Children Day.

Perkins says the Patz story does give her hope, but it’s also part of a roller coaster she and the families and friends of other missing children always ride.

“That’s what parents and families and loved ones of children who are missing have to deal with all the time is this hope that comes up and sometimes it’s dashed and sometimes it’s not,” Perkins said. “It’s a very emotional experience.”

In 1998 Perkins returned to Lawrence and started work on a documentary about the disappearance of her friend. “Have You Seen Andy?” won an Emmy. (You can hear Robin’s conversation with her about the film here.)

For Melanie Perkins this has been a crusade. She’s part filmmaker and part detective as she sifts through evidence that the police either missed or didn’t follow. She stays in contact with Andy’s mom, Faith. They spoke last Sunday after the Etan Patz story had been in the news for a few days.

“I think that being able to talk about it is really important, so Faith and I being able to talk was really important because there have been other times when we have been on this roller coaster together,” she said. “But it’s sad, there’s no way around it. She feels sad.”

September 2 would be Andy Puglisi’s 47th birthday.


  • Melanie Perkins, documentary filmmaker

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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