Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Three Decades Later, Details Emerge in Etan Patz Disappearance


Etan Patz missing poster. NYPD.

The arrest of Pedro Hernandez and his subsequent confession announced on Thursday may mark the beginning of the end of the mystery that surrounds the 1979 disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz.

In a press conference Thursday NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters that the police finally have their man in Hernandez: “He was remorseful, and I think the detectives thought that it was a feeling of relief on his part… We believe that this is the individual responsible.”

For the first time in the 33 years since Etan vanished off the SoHo streets mere blocks from his home, authorities gave a detailed account of Patz’ last moments as related to them by Hernandez.

Hernandez, who worked in a bodega on West Broadway near Etan’s school bus stop, said he saw the boy waiting for the bus and lured him into the bodega’s basement with promises of a soda. Hernandez told investigators that he choked Patz to death, then stowed his body in a bag and left it in a trash pile a few blocks away. The trash was soon hauled away, and the body was never found. Commissioner Kelly said it is “very unlikely” the remains will ever be found. Hernandez allegedly broke down during the interrogation. A law enforcement source described it to The New York Times: “They kept asking him, ‘Why did you do this?’ and he kept saying: ‘I don’t know. I don’t know.’”

In his press conference, Commissioner Kelly gave some background into how police settled on Hernandez as a suspect. Someone called the missing persons to report that Hernandez had told family and others he’d “done a bad thing and killed a child in New York, according to Kelly.

Police charged Hernandez with second-degree murder, but the official charges will come from the Manhattan District Attorney in an arraignment scheduled for Friday.

Hernandez, 51, moved to the Camden, New Jersey area shortly after Patz’ disappearance and has seemingly lived a trouble-free life ever since. With no motive, no forensic evidence and no body, it is unclear what evidence will be available to corroborate the confession. Hernandez’ yet unproven revelations come just a month after NYPD excavated a SoHo basement looking for evidence related to Patz — and in 2004, a New York civil court ruled that Jose Ramos, a convicted pedophile currently imprisoned in Pennsylvania, was responsible for Etan Patz’ death.

A defense attorney for Hernandez has not yet been named, but with 33 years of rumors and false starts there will be many avenues of defense if the case ultimately goes to trial.

Article: The Disappearance of Etan Patz

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