The former delicatessen worker convicted of killing 6-year-old Etan Patz was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison in Tuesday.
Pedro Hernandez, 56, was sentenced nearly 40 years after the boy’s disappearance, an event that ultimately helped raise national awareness about the plight of abducted children.
A jury convicted Hernandez of murder and kidnapping in February. The sentence was handed down in Manhattan State Supreme Court on Tuesday afternoon. Patz's parents, Julie and Stanley, were in court for the sentencing.
Patz vanished as he walked alone for the first time to a school bus stop in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood on May 25, 1979. He would become one of the first missing children to appear on the side of a milk carton seeking information.
For more than three decades, the case endured as one of the country’s most infamous missing child cases until police arrested Hernandez in May 2012 after receiving a tip.
Hernandez, who worked in a bodega near the bus stop, confessed to strangling the boy and then leaving his body in a box outside. He reportedly gave investigators a detailed account of the crime.
His lawyers argued that the admission was the result of police coercion as well as mental illness that made it difficult for Hernandez to separate fantasy from reality. Patz’s body was never found, leaving the confession as the key piece of evidence at trial.
The defense also pointed to another man, Jose Ramos, a convicted pedophile who was long considered a suspect in the crime. Ramos, who is in prison, had a relationship with a woman hired to walk Patz home from school.
A previous trial ended in a mistrial in 2015 when a single juror out of 12 refused to convict Hernandez after weeks of deliberations, prompting prosecutors to retry him.