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Case of missing New York boy focuses on where body may have been dumped

By Natasja Sheriff


By Natasja Sheriff

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A crime scene expert in the trial of a man accused of a decades-old New York murder testified on Thursday that the alley where the suspect said he dumped the victim's body was a bakery at the time.

Pedro Hernandez, accused of kidnapping and murdering 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979, said in videotaped confessions to police that he strangled the boy, stuffed him in a box and dumped him in a New York City alley.

Patz vanished as he walked alone for the first time to a school bus stop in his Manhattan neighborhood on May 25, 1979. His disappearance sparked a national movement to find missing children, with his picture one of the first to appear on milk cartons.

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Hernandez' defense attorneys say his 2012 confession to police was coerced and that he is mentally ill and suffers hallucinations.

Testifying in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, New York Police Detective Paul Brown, a crime scene expert, showed jurors a diagram indicating the alley where Hernandez confessed to have left the body was a bakery in 1979.

In a video shown to the jury earlier, Hernandez was seen walking with police detectives to Thompson Street in Manhattan's Soho neighborhood, dismissing one location before identifying another as the spot where he probably left the box.

His defense attorneys say confusion over the location bolsters their claim that Hernandez' confession is not credible.

Speaking to reporters earlier this week, defense attorney Harvey Fishbein said: "It's just not the place where he could have even left the box, whether he left that box anywhere, whether the box ever existed and whether what he imagined happened back in 1979 did occur.

"Certainly, the location in Soho does not prove anything that he says is accurate," he said.

Patz has never been found. He was declared dead in 2001.

Hernandez, 54, was questioned and arrested in 2012 after police got a tip that he had confessed to the crime to a church prayer group in New Jersey, where he was living.

His attorneys say the blame belongs to another man, Jose Antonio Ramos, who for many years was a prime suspect in the case. Ramos is a convicted child molester in prison in Pennsylvania.

Defense attorneys say they have evidence that Ramos' neighbors positively identified Patz as a boy seen in a Manhattan apartment building where Ramos lived at the time of the boy's disappearance.

(Reporting by Natasja Sheriff; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Eric Beech)