Suspect Indicted in '79 Death of NYC Boy Etan Patz

Wednesday, 14 Nov 2012 01:46 PM

 

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The suspect in the infamous 1979 disappearance of a 6-year-old boy from his New York City neighborhood has been formally charged with murder and kidnapping, according to an indictment made public Wednesday.

Pedro Hernandez, 51, of Maple Shade, N.J., was indicted by a New York City grand jury in the death of Etan Patz. He was arrested earlier this year, and investigators say he confessed.

Hernandez is due back in court on Thursday. The district attorney's office had no immediate comment.

Etan's disappearance led to an intensive search and spawned a movement to publicize cases of missing children. His photo was among the first put on milk cartons, and his case turned May 25 into National Missing Children's Day.

The case has stymied investigators — and Etan's devoted family — for years. The boy's body has never been found, but he was declared legally dead in 2001.

Another man was long ago found civilly responsible for Etan's disappearance but never criminally charged because of a shortage of evidence.

Jose Ramos, now 69, had been dating the boy's baby sitter in 1979 and was considered a suspect. He was later convicted of molesting two different children and is in a Pennsylvania prison.

But investigators began focusing on Hernandez this year after a tipster called police about comments by Hernandez's sister that she heard secondhand he told a church prayer group in the 1980s that he killed a child in New York City.

Hernandez, now a married father, was a teenage stock clerk at a convenience store when Etan disappeared on his way to school on May 25, 1979. Police say Hernandez told investigators he lured the boy into the convenience store with the promise of a soda.

He allegedly said he led the child to the basement, choked him and left his body in a bag of trash about a block away. The convenience store is now an eyeglass shop, and city records pinpointing where garbage was dumped don't go back that far.

Defense attorney Harvey Fishbein has described Hernandez as bipolar and schizophrenic, with a history of hallucinations. The diagnosis could become the basis of psychiatric defense claiming that Hernandez agreed to speak to police without understanding his rights, and that the purported confession was a sick fantasy.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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