NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The mother of Etan Patz has spent decades avoiding the spotlight, but on Tuesday she was thrust back into court, once again reliving the painful details surrounding her 6-year-old son’s disappearance in 1979.

Julie Patz returned to the witness stand, called to knock down a statement allegedly made by convicted child molester Jose Ramos to two jailhouse informants.

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The former cellmates claim Ramos confessed to them that he lured Etan to his apartment for sex on the same day the boy disappeared nearly 36 years ago, CBS2’s Jessica Schneiderman reported.

Ramos also allegedly told the informants he spent time inside the Patz’s SoHo apartment when he was dating a woman who walked Etan to his bus stop around that time.

But Julie Patz, who earlier testified about the last time she saw her son, denied that ever happened, WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported.

“Not with my knowledge,” she told the jury. “Never.”

Prosecutors contend the jailhouse informants were trading information for favorable treatment in prison.

The defense has presented Ramos as being much more likely to have kidnapped and killed Etan than the defendant, Pedro Hernandez.

“It’s quite probable that Ramos had something to do with the disappearance of Etan Patz, and this jury would actually have to exclude Ramos as a perpetrator in this case in order for them to convict Pedro Hernandez,” defense attorney Harvey Fishbein said.

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Julie Patz has largely avoided the trial. She explained she chose not to be present because she did not want to hear details of confessions about what was done to her son.

As she put it: “I know I would not be able to dismiss it. I would hold the images with me and have trouble sleeping.”

Hernandez confessed to police in 2012 that he offered Etan a soda to entice him into the basement of the SoHo bodega where he worked. Then, Hernandez said, he choked the boy and dumped him in a box with some curbside trash. Etan’s body has never been found.

Pedro Hernandez is charged with killing 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979. (credit: CBS News)

Pedro Hernandez is charged with killing 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979. (credit: CBS News)

Defense lawyers say Hernandez’s confession is fiction, dreamed up by a mentally ill man with a low IQ and a history of hallucinations and fueled by more than six hours of police questioning before Hernandez was read his rights.

Ramos had been the prime suspect in the case for decades. He allegedly told a federal prosecutor he was 90 percent sure Etan was the boy he had picked up for sex in Washington Square Park in May 1979.

Ramos has refused to appear at Hernandez’s trial, asserting his Fifth Amendment rights.

The Patz family sued Ramos in a civil case, alleging that he was responsible for Etan’s death. The family was awarded $2 million in a default judgment in 2004 after Ramos stopped cooperating with questioning.

Jose Ramos in May 2010 (credit: Pennsylvania Department of Corrections)

Jose Ramos in May 2010 (credit: Pennsylvania Department of Corrections)

Etan’s disappearance ushered in a new protectiveness into American parenting. He became one of the first missing children featured on milk cartons. His parents advocated for legislation that created a nationwide law-enforcement framework to address such cases.

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