Pedro Hernandez: Former bodega clerk indicted in Etan Patz murder

Etan Patz, right, and Pedro Hernandez, left. (Courtesy: Inside Edition)

Six months after a former bodega clerk admitted to the infamous cold case murder of 6-year-old Etan Patz, he has been indicted — the closest prosecutors have come to a possible conviction in this 33-year-old mystery.

A grand jury today indicted Pedro Hernandez, 51, on two counts of murder in the second degree and one count of kidnapping in the first degree. He was first arrested by the NYPD in May, after a member of his family told police he was responsible for Patz’s murder.

In custody, Hernandez told police he lured the boy into SoHo basement on May 25, 1979, by offering him a soda. He confessed to strangling Patz and then wrapping his body in plastic wrap and putting it in the trash. Shortly after, Hernandez moved from his West Broadway apartment, eventually to Maple Shade, N.J., where he was living at the time of his arrest.

Police said Hernandez told family members over the years he had “done a bad thing and killed a child in New York,” prompting one relative to turn him in.

His own attorneys have raised the question as to whether mental health issues led him to make a false confession, but the Manhattan district attorney’s office said Hernandez’s confession will stand.

“This indictment is the outcome of a lengthy and deliberative process, involving months of factual investigation and legal analysis. We believe the evidence that Mr. Hernandez killed Etan Patz to be credible and persuasive, and that his statements are not the product of any mental illness,” Erin Duggan, a spokesperson for the Manhattan DA, said in a statement. “The grand jury has found sufficient evidence to charge the defendant, and this is a case that we believe should be presented to a jury at trial.”

Hernandez’s attorney, Harvey Fishbein, insists his client has an I.Q. in the “borderline-to-mild mental retardation range.”

“Nothing that occurs in the course of this trial will answer what actually happened to Etan Patz,” Fishbein said. “The indictment is based solely on statements allegedly made by my client, who has, in the past, been repeatedly diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia, and who has, over the last six months, been found to suffer from schizotypal personality disorder, which is characterized by, among other things, unusual perceptual experiences, commonly referred to as hallucinations.”

Patz’s disappearance on his first walk alone to the school bus stop grabbed national headlines in 1979.  His face become one of the first to appear on a milk carton in an effort to garner information leading to his whereabouts.

Potential prosecution problems

Paul Callan, former deputy chief of homicide in the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, said it’s unusual for a suspect to be indicted six months after an arrest, and it could suggest some holes in the case.

“It’s a real uphill battle to get a conviction in such an old case,” Callan said. “Witnesses’ memories fade, physical evidence doesn’t exist anymore.”

In New York, a defendant cannot be convicted solely on a confession. Prosecutors must present corroborating evidence, which could prove challenging, Callan suggested, especially because Patz’s body was never found.   

“The defense will come in and say they don’t even know that Etan Patz was murdered, maybe he was kidnapped,” Callan said.

One point the prosecution might argue, he predicted, is that Hernandez confessed the crime to multiple people over the years with consistent detail, suggesting truthfulness. Jurors may also be more eager to reach a resolution in such an iconic cold case.        

“This is the case that put child predators on the radar screen of mothers in America. A jury will like to convict and punish the person responsible,” Callan added. 


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Police warn of attempted assault on woman near…

Police in Cambridge issued an alert after a woman said she was the victim of an attempted sexual assault after leaving Porter Square early Wednesday.…

Local

Kevin Kayvon Edson: Finish line hoax suspect sent…

The man who allegedly left a backpack near the finish line on the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings was due in court on Wednesday.

Local

Wahlbergs expanding Wahlburgers fast food joint across North…

Wahlburgers, a fast casual burger restaurant founded by brothers Mark, Donnie, and Paul Wahlberg and subject of a new A&E Network’s original series, “Wahlburgers”, announced expansion plans in North America,…

International

Nearly 300 missing after South Korean ferry capsizes

Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry capsized off South Korea Wednesday, in what could be the country's biggest maritime disaster in over 20 years.

Television

Jim Rash talks 'The Writer's Room' and amazing…

For Jim Rash, as the fifth season of "Community" comes to a close, the second season of "The Writer's Room" begins.

Books

Poems from prison: 'How to Survive a Bullet…

Celebrate National Poetry Month with, "'How to Survive a Bullet to the Heart."

Movies

Review: 'Heaven is for Real' tries to be…

The mega-bestseller "Heaven is for Real" becomes a movie that tries to portray wrestling with faith — or at least it tries to try.

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, April 16: 'The Americans,'…

'The Americans' Philip and Elizabeth face "painful turns" in their missions. Maybe next week they'll have a nice easy mission with no moral ambiguity? Probably…

MLB

MLB video highlights: White Sox beat Red Sox…

Red Sox fall on walk-off error to White Sox

NBA

NBA Draft Lottery day is May 20: Celtics…

NBA Draft Lottery day is Tuesday, May 20: Celtics percentage odds for a top overall pick

MLB

Opinion: Major League Baseball replay system shouldn't be…

Opinion: Major League Baseball replay system shouldn't be dumped just yet

NHL

Bruins - Red Wings preview: David Krejci ready…

Bruins - Red Wings preview: David Krejci ready to erupt once again in playoffs

Home

Steal home decorating tips from stylist and creator…

We hit her up for some space-conscious, budget-friendly design tips.

Food

Wahlbergs expanding Wahlburgers fast food joint across North…

Wahlburgers will open new restaurants in Boston, Toronto and Philadelphia.

Wellbeing

Could a facelift give you the edge at…

It's not just women lining up for procedures.

Home

How to plant a garden in the city

Small on space but big on gardening? You can still have that welcoming oasis of fresh air with an urban garden. Peter Smith, owner of…