By Natasja Sheriff
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The jury in the trial of a former New York deli worker accused of kidnapping and murdering 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979 adjourned without a verdict on Thursday after a second day of deliberations.
In a case that first raised national awareness of the issue of missing and abducted children, Pedro Hernandez confessed to police in 2012 that he had choked the boy, stuffed him in a box and left him in a lower Manhattan alley.
The boy’s picture was one of the first to appear on milk cartons in a national campaign to locate children who had disappeared.
Defense attorneys say Hernandez’s confession was coerced, and that the 54-year-old man is mentally ill, intellectually disabled and suffers hallucinations.
The Manhattan jury has deliberated eight hours over two days and was scheduled to resume at 9:45 a.m. (1345 GMT) on Friday.
The panel heard dozens of witnesses in testimony that began in late January. No forensic evidence was presented, and Hernandez did not take the witness stand.
Patz has never been found. He was declared dead in 2001.
Summing up the case earlier in the week, Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon reminded the jury of the impact of the boy’s disappearance.
“He represents a moment in this city and this country where there was a loss of innocence, trust, a way of life,” she said.
“Etan, by his death, saved many, many children from a similar fate,” she added.
The crime has long haunted New Yorkers who can recall the massive search for the small, blond boy.
In a confession videotaped by police and played in court, Hernandez described luring Patz into the delicatessen where he worked, taking him to the basement and strangling him.
If convicted, Hernandez faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Defense attorneys put blame on Jose Ramos, who dated a Patz family babysitter and was long considered the prime suspect. Ramos is serving a prison term for sexually abusing boys.
(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jonathan Oatis)