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Entries in Etan Patz (20)

Friday
May252012

Man Who Confessed to Killing Etan Patz Expected in Court

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A New Jersey man who police say confessed to killing Etan Patz is expected to make his first court appearance in New York City on Friday, the 33rd anniversary of the 6-year-old's disappearance.

Pedro Hernandez, 51, was arrested Thursday after he told detectives that he lured Patz into the basement of a bodega with the promise of a soda and strangled him.

At a news conference on Thursday, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Hernandez admitted he "choked [Patz] there and disposed of the body by putting it into a plastic bag and placing it into the trash."

Kelly said Hernandez provided no motive for the killing.

Patz disappeared on the morning of May 25, 1979, the first day he was allowed to walk to the school bus stop alone.

Authorities were tipped off to Hernandez after an individual contacted the police with information that led them to identify Hernandez as a person-of-interest.

Kelly said Hernandez had told family members and friends that he had "done a bad thing and killed a child in New York."

He was taken into custody at his residence in Maple Shade, N.J., Wednesday morning.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May242012

Etan Patz Suspect Arrested, Ending 33-Year Cold Case of Missing Boy

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Police Thursday arrested a former grocery worker in the 1979 murder of Etan Patz, apparently ending a mystery of what happened to the 6-year-old boy that has haunted New York City for three decades.

Pedro Hernandez, 51, confessed to police that he lured Patz to his death with the promise of a soda. He took police back to the basement of a Manhattan bodega and showed them where he strangled Patz.

He said he stuffed the boy's body into a plastic garbage bag, carried it to another location in the SoHo neighborhood and dumped it in the trash.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Hernandez provided no motive for the killing.

Patz, a handsome blond boy, vanished on the first day he was allowed to walk to the school bus alone on May 25, 1979. Friday is the 33rd anniversary of his death.

Kelly said detectives were drawn to Hernandez in recent days because Hernandez had told family members and friends as early as 1981 that he had "done a bad thing and killed a child in New York."

It was one of those family members or friends who alerted police following renewed interest in the case when police excavated the basement apartment of a building on the same block last month where Patz lived and Hernandez worked.

Kelly said police had informed Patz's parents, who have for years wondered just what happened to their 6-year-old son.

"We only hope these developments bring some measure of peace to the family," Kelly said.

Patz, who disappeared on a rainy New York day not unlike the one on which Hernandez was arrested, launched the modern missing persons movement and led to missing children being featured on milk cartons.

Hernandez was taken into custody at his residence in Maple Shade, N.J., on Wednesday morning, where he lives with his wife and daughter. The apartment is rented by his wife Rosemary Hernandez, who let her husband move in after he told her that he was dying of cancer.

New York City police officers accompanied by local cops took him into custody at his New Jersey home at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday and brought him to the Camden County, N.J., Prosecutor's Office for initial questioning. He was then taken to New York City for additional questioning by authorities there.

Though police have named other suspects in the past, none had ever been arrested or charged.

The search for Etan has been one of the largest, longest lasting and most heart-wrenching hunts for a missing child in the country's recent history.

Hernandez was taken into custody one month after the investigation into Patz's disappearance returned to the headlines when police excavated a Manhattan basement in the hopes of finding evidence about the boy's death.

At the time police named Othniel Miller as a suspect. The dig focused on a basement room, where Miller once operated a workshop.

The dig yielded no obvious human remains and little forensic evidence that would help solve the decades-long mystery of what happened to the boy.

Miller's lawyer Michael Farkas said authorities had not been in touch with his client since Hernandez's arrest Wednesday.

The boy's parents, Stan and Julie Patz, were reluctant to move or even change their phone number in case their son tried to reach out. They still live in the same apartment, down the street from the building that was examined in April.

The family did not immediately return a message requesting comment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May242012

Etan Patz Suspect Tells Cops He Strangled Little Boy, Put Body in Box

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A suspect in the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz 33 years ago has confessed to strangling the little boy and disposing his lifeless body in a box, authorities said.

New York City police on Wednesday detained Pedro Hernandez, 51, who worked at a corner store in the Manhattan neighborhood where Patz vanished more than three decades ago. Friday is the anniversary of the boy's disappearance.

Police have expressed a "cautious optimism" that they have cracked a cold case that has haunted New York City for decades and was a major reason that the photos of missing children were put on milk cartons.

The suspect, who would have been 18 when Patz disappeared, has told investigators that he strangled Patz and put his body in a box to dispose of it.

But the police have yet to charge Hernandez with any crime. Those charges could come as early as Thursday.

Hernandez was questioned when the reinvestigation of the long dormant case resumed in January 2010. The suspect has made numerous admissions implicating himself, but investigators remain cautious because some of Hernandez's statements contradict known facts, sources said.

Patz disappeared in May 25, 1979 while walking to school for the first time near his parents' apartment in SoHo section of Manhattan.

"An individual now in custody has made statements to N.Y.P.D. detectives implicating himself in the disappearance and death of Etan Patz 33 years ago," Commissioner Ray Kelly said in a statement.

Hernandez was taken into custody at his residence in Maple Shade, N.J., on Wednesday morning. He had never previously been named as a suspect.

New York City police officers accompanied by local cops took him into custody at his New Jersey home at 7:30 a.m. Hernandez lives in the rental apartment with his wife and daughter. Neighbors describe him as quiet and "the best tenant ever."

Though police have named other suspects in the past none have ever been arrested or charged. Mayor Michael Bloomberg declined to provide details Thursday, but said, "A person of interest is in custody and being questioned."

"The suspect came forward and made a statement implicating himself. I caution you all that there's a lot more investigating to do," the mayor said.

On Thursday morning, NYPD Chief of Detectives Phil Pulaski walked along Prince Street, where Patz vanished. Pulaski and his team were reexamining the crime scene in light of new information they have obtained from questioning Hernandez.

Neither Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, nor the FBI would comment on the investigation.

The family did not immediately return a message requesting comment.

Watch the full story on ABC's 20/20 Friday at 10 p.m. ET

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May242012

Etan Patz: Man in Custody Implicates Self in Boy's Death

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- New York City police have a man in custody for the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz, who went missing 33 years ago this week, and have "cautious optimism" that they may finally have a significant break in the case.

Authorities said that it is possible that Pedro Hernandez, 51, could be charged as early as Thursday with the kidnapping and murder of Patz, who disappeared while walking to the school bus stop alone for the first time near his parents' Manhattan apartment in 1979.

NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Thursday morning that Hernandez "has made statements to N.Y.P.D. detectives implicating himself in the disappearance and death of Etan Patz 33 years ago."

Hernandez, who was taken into custody at his residence in Maple Shade, N.J. Wednesday morning, had never previously been named as a prime suspect.

Though police have named other suspects in the past, none have ever been arrested or charged.  

Thursday morning, NYPD Chief of Detectives Phil Pulaski walked along Prince Street, where Patz vanished on the morning of May 25, 1979.  Pulaski and his team were reexamining the crime scene in light of new information they have obtained from questioning Hernandez.

Both Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg are expected to provide further details later Thursday.  Neither Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, nor the FBI would comment on the investigation.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr232012

Etan Patz: Search Ends with No Evidence of 6-Year-Old Boy

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The latest chapter in the 33-year search for Etan Patz -- the digging up of a basement in New York City's SoHo District -- has ended with no human remains found and only a few reeds of possible evidence collected from the hundreds of pounds of debris now packed into dumpsters.

The bits of material -- some human hair, but not blonde hair like that of the young boy, and a possible blood stained bit of cinder block -- are being sent to the FBI forensic lab in Quantico, Va.

And Monday, according to authorities, will be a day for winding down the operation on Prince Street.

After Sunday's digging was suspended at around 3 p.m., authorities met with the Patz family to inform them of the outcome of the search.  They were told what had been found, and what, significantly, had not been found: human remains or other clear evidence that their son had been inside that basement prior to his disappearance.

Patz was six when he disappeared on the morning of May 25, 1979, soon after leaving his parents' apartment at 113 Prince St., the first time he was to walk to the school bus stop by himself.  The boy's 1979 disappearance sparked a citywide search that decades later led authorities back to handyman Othniel Miller's small basement workshop, this time to excavate it after cadaver dogs detected the smell of human remains.

The possible evidence was discovered in the basement that was once used as a kids' play area, which doubled as the workspace of Miller, now 75.  He was seen with Patz the night before he disappeared, according to authorities.

Miller has not been named a suspect in the Patz disappearance, but he has been questioned.

Since the boy's disappearance, a man named Jose Ramos, who is a convicted child molester, has been considered the prime suspect, although he has denied any connection.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Apr222012

Etan Patz: ModeForensics Help Authorities Reinvestigate Disappearance 33 Years Ago

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Thirty-three years after Etan Patz disappeared, all eyes are on the basement at 127 Prince Street in New York City as authorities use technological advances that can even detect if a body was moved to reinvestigate the cold case.

Patz, who was 6, disappeared on the morning of May 25, 1979, soon after leaving his parents' apartment at 113 Prince St., the first time he was to walk to the school bus stop by himself. The boy's 1979 disappearance sparked a massive citywide search that decades later led authorities back to handyman Othneil Miller's small basement workshop -- this time to excavate it after cadaver dogs detected the smell of human remains.

Lawrence Kobilinsky, a forensic scientist at John Jay College Criminal Justice in New York City, said vast improvements in technology since Patz disappeared, including agents that detect traces of blood and ground penetrating radar, are allowing investigators to crack "relatively old" cold cases by looking beyond what the eye can see.

"Back then there was every reason to look [in the basement] but there was no reason to break down the ground or the walls at that time." he said. "If you see something you could swab it. If anything was visible they'd be able to bring it up."

Investigators likely used ground-penetrating radar at the scene to look below the surface of concrete and drywall, he said.

"What the instrument does is it sends ultra high frequency radiation into the ground and essentially the waves, the energy travels down until it hits a discontinuity. If it hits a skeleton, they will bounce back. You can see an image on a monitor. It will go right through concrete, very, very deep into the ground," he said.

The technology is so sophisticated it is even able to detect voids in areas where a body temporarily may have been hidden, Kobilinsky said.

"If a body has been moved, that means the ground has been disturbed. A discontinuity can be picked up. It tells you this is a place worth looking at," he said.

And if the excavation finds human remains, a forensics team will be able to isolate mitochondrial DNA and match it to a maternal relative of Etan, who would share the same mitochondria.

Even traces of blood may yield clues.

"Certainly they were spraying either Luminol or BlueStar. This is a blood detection system," Kobilinsky said, adding that either agent would be able to detect traces of blood, even after 33 years.

Not only does blood remain traceable, but so does the human scent. An interview with handyman Othneil Miller two years ago after the case was reopened prompted the FBI and NYPD to put special odor-absorbing pads in his old workshop for four days.

When those pads were presented to cadaver dogs, they signaled the odor of human remains. The dogs were then brought to the basement where they again indicated the scent of human remains in an area a source said was resurfaced with concrete at or shortly after Patz disappeared.

Lynne Englebert, who trains and handles a human remains detection dog with the Institute for Canine Forensics, said cadaver dogs working cold cases is a relatively new coupling and one that was formed in the last decade.

Dogs train for their certificiation for one to two years and practice finding "old crunchy bones" with their handlers, Englebert said.

"We as human beings never lose our scent. If [a body] had been there for a while, that scent would still be there," she said, indicating that even if investigators do not find remains in the basement, it is possible human remains may have once been there before being moved.

But not everyone is prone to throw their trust to the dogs.

Kobilinsky said it wasn't clear whether the dogs are reliable.

"I'm not terribly optimistic they'll find a body. I think they will alert to things other than human remains, [such as] animal decomposition or rotting organic material," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Apr212012

Etan Patz: Officials Discuss How the Case Was Reopened In ABC News Exclusive

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- When Cy Vance was running for Manhattan District Attorney, he and his opponents were approached by Stan Patz, the father of missing child Etan Patz, and asked to re-open the case, help the family get closure and bring to justice the person who kidnapped and murdered the 6-year-old boy in 1979.

Vance made a commitment to Patz: if he was elected he would re-examine the case. He did so shortly after he was elected, meeting multiple times with Patz and former federal prosecutor Stu Grabois, who had devoted much of his career to the Patz case.

In January 2010 the case took on new life. Dormant since the former Manhattan DA, Robert Morgenthau, opted not to present evidence against one suspect to a grand jury, it got a fresh look by a team of prosecutors and an FBI agent assigned to it. Old interviews were reconsidered, old evidence re-examined, and a fresh round of interviews with subjects of the original investigation began.

The probers soon returned to the brick and concrete basement at 127B Prince Street, a few doors down from where Etan Patz disappeared May 25 1979, a space that appeared to never have been searched. It was also where the lives of the prime suspect of Grabois's investigation, Jose Ramos, and Othniel Miller, a carpenter and handyman who used the basement as a workshop, intersected. Ramos was already in prison, serving 20 years for raping two boys in Pennsylvania. Miller had never been really subjected to a significant investigation. Miller's basement workshop floor was re-concreted around the time of Patz’s disappearance, but it was never thoroughly searched let alone dug up. One reason, investigators recall, was that the boy's mom, Julie Patz, described Miller, now 75, as "a family friend."

The Patz's have not returned calls by ABC News to discuss the reinvigorated investigation and have posted a notice at their home asking the media to respect their privacy. And Ramos, it seems, had a key to Miller's workshop, frequented it, and appears to have performed some odd jobs for Miller, sources say. Miller, who has been charged with no crime in connection with the Patz case, is alleged by multiple sources to have seen Patz the night before he disappeared and to have given the boy a dollar.

The 1979 disappearance sparked a massive citywide search, but now the FBI and New York City police have brought the case right back to the block where Patz stepped out of his family's home at 113 Prince Street in his fluorescent sneakers and airline pilot's cap to head the two blocks to his school bus stop alone for the first time.

Federal agents and New York City police began Thursday to tear up the concrete floor of the basement at 127 Prince St. By Saturday much of the digging had been done, and chunks of concrete large and small had been lifted up and out.

Prosecutors began focusing on the Prince Street basement room following a positive hit by NYPD and FBI cadaver dogs.

Special odor-absorbing pads were placed in the room, capturing the scent of human remains -- even decades old -- that police cadaver dogs were able to detect. The pads were sent down to the dogs in Virginia, and when a dog there got a positive hit, a dog was brought into the basement, sources said.

Investigators then twice interviewed Miller before obtaining a warrant and beginning the dig.

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly on Friday said an array of new technology unavailable to law enforcement in 1979 including x-rays and black lights are being used in the investigation.

The new probe is reexamining the decades-old assumption that Patz was abducted by convicted pedophile Jose Ramos. It has not ruled Ramos out, and Miller is not named as a suspect. Miller's lawyer, Michael Farkas, says his client is innocent and cooperating with authorities.

Some of the strongest evidence against Ramos, who has an extensive criminal history of molesting boys, came in what became known as "the 90 percent confession." It took place in the Southern District of New York office of Grabois, when he was investigating the case. Grabois and a detective listened as Ramos told them that the boy in the Etan Patz missing persons fliers resembled the boy he had taken home for sex the day before the disappearance.

"I'm 90 percent sure," he told Grabois, that the boy was the one he "took to my home for sex." He described several of his actions with Etan, but then asked for an attorney and later changed his story.

He would not comment on whether sex crime allegations brought against Miller by an ex-wife several years after the Patz disappearance were part of the information presented to a judge by the Manhattan District Attorney's office in order to obtain a search warrant. The District Attorney's office has declined any comment on the case except to acknowledge it reopened it in January 2010 and that the warrant was requested by that office.

On Saturday, the FBI said that work was progressing "slowly and methodically." Federal Agent Tim Flannelly, of the FBI New York field office said that no revelations were likely to be forthcoming over the weekend.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr202012

Handyman in Etan Patz Probe Says He's Innocent

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A lawyer for the handyman Othneil Miller whose basement workshop is the focal point of a new investigation into the Etan Patz case Friday denied he had anything to do with the little boy's disappearance more than three decades ago.

"Mr. Miller did not do this," Michael Farkas, the attorney for Miller, told reporters outside the Brooklyn building where Miller lives.

"Mr. Miller denies involvement with what happened to this beautiful young boy and he's going to remain cooperative to the extent that's reasonably possible given this investigation," Farkas said.

Patz, who was 6, disappeared on the morning of May 25, 1979, soon after leaving his parents' apartment at 113 Prince St., the first time he was to walk to the school bus stop by himself.

Authorities Friday began the first full day of digging in the Manhattan basement at 127 Prince St. for new evidence, following the startling discovery that the missing child may never have made it off his own New York City block.

Patz's 1979 disappearance sparked a massive city-wide search 33 years ago, but now the FBI and New York City police believe they may find evidence in what was then a handyman's basement workshop just steps away from where the boy was last seen.

The small basement room at the center of the investigation belonged to Miller, now 75, and was also frequented by the case's longtime prime suspect Jose Ramos.

Federal agents and New York City police began Thursday to tear up the concrete floor of the basement and the excavation was in full swing Friday.

Prosecutors reopened the cold case two years ago and began focusing on the Prince Street basement room following an interview with Miller.

That interview prompted the FBI and NYPD to put special odor-absorbing pads in the room for four days. When those pads were presented to cadaver dogs, they signaled the odor of human remains. The dogs were then brought to the basement where they again indicated the scent of human remains.

Investigators then interviewed Miller again before obtaining a warrant and beginning the dig.

Kelly said an array of new technology unavailable to law enforcement in 1979 including x-rays and black lights are being used in the investigation.

The new investigation is also reexamining the decades old assumption that Patz was abducted by convicted pedophile Jose Ramos. Ramos, now in prison for an unrelated case, was never charged with Patz's abduction.

According to sources, the area of the basement where the dog picked up the scent appears to be one that had been resurfaced with fresh concrete at or shortly after the time of Patz's disappearance.

The basement was searched in 1979, the year the boy disappeared, but the floor was never dug up.

Since then, drywall has been put up over the room's brick walls. The drywall will be removed and the bricks examined and tested for blood evidence using advanced forensic techniques that were not available three decades ago, officials said.

The floor will also be dug up in a search for human remains, clothing or other evidence.

For the Patz family, it has been more than three decades of agonizing investigations and years of wondering what happened to their blond son with the gorgeous smile.

The case had been dormant until Manhattan DA Cy Vance Jr. reopened the case. Former DA Robert Morgenthau had declined to proceed with the case, citing insufficient evidence.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr202012

Etan Patz May Have Disappeared Just Steps from Home

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Authorities on Friday began the first full day of digging for new evidence in the Etan Patz case following the startling discovery that the missing child may never have made it off his own New York City block.

Patz's 1979 disappearance sparked a massive city-wide search then, but now the FBI and New York City police believe they may find evidence in what was at the time a handyman's basement workshop, just steps away from where the boy was last seen.

The dig is taking place in a small basement room that belonged to Othniel Miller, now 75, and which was also frequented by the case's longtime prime suspect, Jose Ramos.

Federal agents and New York City police began Thursday to tear up the concrete floor of the basement at 127 Prince St. in the SoHo section of Manhattan.

Patz was 6 when he disappeared on the morning of May 25, 1979, soon after leaving his parents' apartment at 113 Prince St., the first time he was to walk to the school bus stop by himself.

Prosecutors reopened the cold case two years ago and began focusing on the Prince Street basement room following a positive hit by NYPD and FBI cadaver dogs.

Special odor-absorbing pads were placed in the room, capturing the scent of human remains -- even decades old -- that police cadaver dogs were able to detect.

Investigators then twice interviewed Miller before obtaining a warrant and beginning the dig.

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said an array of new technology unavailable to law enforcement in 1979, including x-rays and black lights, are being used in the investigation. The new investigation is also reexamining the decades-old assumption that Patz was abducted by convicted pedophile Jose Ramos. Ramos, now in prison for an unrelated case, was never charged with Patz's abduction.

The preparations for the search included mapping the basement, making sketches, taking photographs and other procedures for collecting evidence. According to sources, the area of the basement where the dog picked up the scent appears to be one that had been resurfaced with fresh concrete at or shortly after the time of Patz's disappearance.

The basement was searched in 1979, the year the boy disappeared, but the floor was never dug up.

Since then, drywall has been put up over the room's brick walls. The drywall will be removed and the bricks examined and tested for blood evidence using advanced forensic techniques that were not available three decades ago, officials said.

The floor will also be dug up in a search for human remains, clothing or other evidence.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr192012

Etan Patz Search Leads to Handyman's Basement 33 Years Later

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A fresh investigation into the disappearance 33 years ago of a little boy named Etan Patz led to the Manhattan basement workshop of a handyman named Othneil Miller on Thursday.

Investigators believe that Patz, who was 6 years old when he vanished in 1979, was in Miller's basement the night before he disappeared, when Miller befriended the boy and gave him a dollar, sources told ABC News.

Federal agents and New York City police began to tear up the concrete floor of the basement at 127 Prince St. in the SoHo section of Manhattan. The basement was Miller's workshop in 1979.

Patz's disappearance as he walked to the bus stop alone for the first time in his young life has haunted the city. The search for Patz has been one of the largest, longest-lasting and most heart-wrenching hunts for a missing child in the country's recent history.

The new investigation is also re-examining the decades-old assumption that Patz was abducted by convicted pedophile Jose Ramos. Ramos, now in prison for an unrelated case, was never charged with Patz's abduction.

Thursday's probe, which was reopened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance in 2010, began with an interview of Miller.

Based on that interview, law enforcement sources said, a dog was brought to the scene as a warrant was drawn up. The cadaver dog got a positive hit for possible human remains. The warrant was served and the preparations for the excavation, expected to last five days, began.

For Stu Grabois, the assistant U.S. attorney who spent 27 years on the case, it was good news to hear of the new probe.

"I am pleased that Cy Vance is exploring everything that can help to bring justice to the Patz family," Grabois said.

According to sources, the area of the basement where the dog picked up the scent appears to be one that had been resurfaced with fresh concrete at or shortly after the time of Patz's disappearance.

Sources told ABC News that even if a body had been kept for 24 hours or less and then moved, a trained dog could pick up the scent decades later.

The basement was searched in 1979, the year the boy disappeared, but the floor was never dug up.

Since then drywall has been put up over the room's brick walls. The drywall will be removed and the bricks examined and tested for blood evidence using advanced forensic techniques that were not available three decades ago, officials said. The floor will also be dug up in a search for human remains, clothing or other evidence.

"It's a joint FBI-NYPD search for human remains, clothing or personal effects," NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told reporters outside the building after investigators entered using a search warrant.

For the Patz family, it has been more than three decades of agonizing investigations and years of wondering what happened to their blond son with the gorgeous smile.

In an interview with 20/20 in 2009, the boy's father, Stan Patz, said, "I still gag with fear that this child must have felt...when he realized he was being betrayed by an adult."

The case had been dormant until Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. reopened the case in 2010. Former D.A. Robert Morgenthau had declined to proceed with the case, citing insufficient evidence.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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