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Snatched

Child Abductions in U.S. News Media

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Spring-Serenity Duvall and Leigh Moscowitz

Few crimes provoke the collective fear, public outrage, and media fascination that child abductions do. Stories about missing children capture national headlines and dominate public discourses about crime and deviance, child safety, parenting, the American family, and gender and sexuality.
Snatched is the first book-length study to interrogate the predominant myths centered on gender and class that shaped mainstream U.S. news coverage of kidnappings in the 2000s. Through an exploration of hundreds of reports from newspapers, news magazines, television broadcasts, and web stories, Snatched critically analyzes how news narratives construct the phenomenon of child abductions, the young girls and boys who fall victim, the male perpetrators of these horrific crimes, and the adult victims of long-term abductions who were found years later. The book’s interdisciplinary nature, methodological rigor, and thorough investigation into some of the most riveting and revolting crimes of the last decade make Snatched a worthy, important, and timely contribution to the fields of media studies and girlhood studies.
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Timeline of Major Cases Prominently Featured in U.S. News Media

Extract



Etan Patz, 6 years old at time of abduction

Disappeared from his SoHo neighborhood in New York City on May 25, 1979. His parents had allowed him to walk the two blocks to his bus stop by himself for the first time. When he did not come home from school that afternoon, his parents called the police. Etan became one of the most famous missing children cases in history, and the day of his disappearance, May 25th, was designated National Missing Children’s Day. His loss has been credited with sparking the contemporary missing children’s movement and the milk-carton campaigns that began in the 1980s. Even though Etan’s body was never found, he was declared legally dead in 2001. His case today remains unsolved.

Legal outcome: Jose Antonio Ramos, a convicted sex offender, was the prime suspect from the mid-1980s to 2012. He was not prosecuted in the case of Patz’s murder but did serve a 20-year sentence for child molestation. In 2012, another suspect, deli worker Pedro Hernandez, confessed in a now-disputed video-taped testimony that he had lured Etan into the basement of a convenience store with the promise of a ← 153 | 154 → soda and then strangled him. Hernandez’s defense attorneys claim Hernandez has a mental disorder and a low I.Q., and that the confession was coerced. Hernandez’s first murder trial ended in May 2015 in a mistrial when a single juror declined to convict Hernandez. A retrial has been set for 2016.

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