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

Federal mediator joins Met Opera labor talks as…

Unions representing the orchestra and chorus of the Met Opera agreed to have a federal mediator join labor talks on Thursday as a threatened lockout loomed.

Local

Winning $7 million New York lottery ticket sold…

The only $7 million winning New York Lottery ticket for Monday's Cash4Life drawing was sold at a Queens 7-Eleven, officials said on Tuesday.

Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

Movies

Review: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is a refreshingly…

Marvel is sitting so high on a cash mountain that it's now thrown $170 million at the relatively obscure and very silly title "Guardians of the Galaxy."

Movies

Review: 'Get on Up' is a war between…

James Brown finally gets his own boring biopic with "Get on Up," but the Godfather of Soul puts up a good fight against the usual cliches.

Movies

Review: 'Child of God' finds director James Franco…

James Franco's 11th directed feature is a noble but sloppy adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's "Child of God," about a feral mountain man (Scott Haze).

Movies

Review: Alex Gibney's Fela Kuti doc 'Finding Fela'…

Prolific documentarian Alex Gibney takes on Afrobeat god Fela Kuti in "Finding Fela," but fails to capture his unique essence.

MLB

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade…

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade deadline

College

Playing the Field: Valentine's Day coupling edition

  It’s Valentine’s Day, a day created by Hallmark to make couples spend loads and loads of money on candy, flowers and gourmet dinners. Or…

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

Career

What do you wear to a career fair?…

Getting that gig starts with presenting the most polished and memorable version of yourself, so refer to our expert fashion advice.

Style

Editors pick: Margiela's finger armor ring

These cool rings from Maison Martin Margiela are designed to overlap over the finger, covering each joint like armor.

Style

Givenchy champions diversity

Riccardo Tisci's uses a variety of ethnically diverse ladies for his spring campaign including Erykah Badu.

Wellbeing

Don't settle for the hotel fitness center with…

Travelers who want to skip the hotel fitness center in favor of local gyms that may offer better equipment, classes and amenities can turn to…