Confessed Killer of Etan Patz Charged with Second Degree Murder

Friday, May 25, 2012

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne holding the original missing persons sign for Etan Patz, who went missing in 1979. FBI and NYPD excavated a building on Prince Street. An NYPD spokesman holding the original missing persons sign for Etan Patz, who went missing in 1979. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

A man who police say confessed to the murder of schoolboy Etan Patz was arraigned and charged with one count of second degree murder late Friday.

Pedro Hernandez was remanded without bail. His attorney, Harvey Fishbein, asked for a competency exam to be held at a later date. According to Fishbein, Hernandez is on medication and is bipolar and schizophrenic.

Hernandez, 51, told police he lured Etan from the school bus stop to the bodega where he worked with the promise of a soda. He then choked Etan and disposed of the boy’s body in a plastic bag he dumped in the trash, police said.

He was arraigned at Bellevue Hospital where he was brought Friday to get medication for an existing health problem. He had also made statements about wanting to kill himself, police said.

Wearing an orange jumpsuit, Hernandez did not speak during the proceedings.

Hernandez, who was 19 at the time of Etan's disappearance, worked at a neighborhood grocery at 448 West Broadway, and lived nearby. He was not questioned at the time, and later moved to New Jersey.

Crime scene investigators returned to the bodega where Hernandez worked for about a month on Friday.

There is no physical evidence or motive linking Hernandez to the crime, police said. He has no criminal record.

But the details Hernandez offered about the boy's disappearance gave them probable cause to proceed with the arrest, police said. Hernandez confessed to the crime on videotape.

“The detectives believe in the credibility of the statement of Mr. Hernandez,” Kelly said. He added the detectives who questioned Hernandez described him as “remorseful,” and that there was “a feeling of relief” from Hernandez.

Prosecutors are determining the next step for the Hernandez. Because there's little physical evidence, it's likely the case will hinge on whether the confession is admissible in court. Psychologists reportedly examined Hernandez Friday, as authorities prepare to arraign him.

Some legal experts find it unusual that neither the Manhattan District Attorney nor the FBI attended the NYPD news conference Thursday night announcing the arrest Hernandez.

“It apparently was a joint task force that was working on this case over the years.  Normally, all the key players would appear for a press conference like that,” said Evan Barr, a partner specializing in criminal defense at Steptoe and Johnson in New York.

Barr, a former federal prosecutor in New York, said it may indicate that prosecutors or the FBI believe the NYPD “jumped the gun” in arresting Hernandez. A spokesman for the FBI said the bureau was "still working with the NYPD and the DA's office in investigating the Etan Patz case."

The police received a tip that led to Hernandez being identified as a person of interest in disappearance of the boy 33 years ago. Kelly said Hernandez told a family member and others that he had "done a bad thing and killed a child in New York." He had made statements like this as far back as 1981, although the child was never identified.

Chuck Dean, a neighbor of Hernandez in Maple Shade, N.J., and former cop, said he was stunned to find out that the man who kept to himself and was quiet was a suspect in a murder.

"He was very quiet," Dean said. "He didn't say much of anything. Never really had a conversation with him for three years. He never said a word. The only time he came out of the house was to sit in that chair and have a cigarette."

He added, "I figured there was something was wrong somewhere and perhaps he was evasive."

Jose Lopez, his brother-in-law, told the Daily MailOnline described a teenage Pedro as a “tough guy” who was ‘hotblooded” and would “snap.”

"When he was younger Pedro had a really short fuse and would get angry at nothing," he told the paper. "There was one time with his ex-wife when they had a row and he broke a window and I had to come round and fix it."

Hernandez’s wife, Rosmary, and his daughter left with some belongings, saying nothing to a throng of reporters waiting outside their modest two-story home just outside of Camden, N.J., according to NBCPhiladelphia.

When Etan’s father Stan was told of the arrest, he was “surprised and taken aback, overwhelmed,” said Lt. Christopher Zimmerman, who first informed the family.

"We can only hope that these developments bring some measure of peace to the family," Kelly said.

The arrest of Hernandez was not directly related to last month's excavation of the basement of the former site of a wood shop that belonged to a carpenter who was friendly with the Patz family. The excavation led to renewed publicity of the case, and Kelly said, that is what led to the tip being called in.

Janet Babin, Bob Hennelly, Tom McDonald at WHYY and the Associated Press contributed reporting.


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Comments [14]

The Bodega where Hernandez was once employed has been replaced by an optical store, its eye glasses are being sold for as much as 500 bucks. Rice with beans were no longer available in the Village; store rents became too high for Hernandez to get an inexpensive lunch.

May. 27 2012 06:04 PM
ron from flushing

how many people recall a school bus strike was in effect, and Etan had to walk to mass transit?

May. 25 2012 08:33 PM
rose from maplewood

perhaps he really did commit this horrible crime and his sick mind wanted to confess on the anniversary to bring notoriety.
Perhaps his family moved to NJ to remove their disturbed son from the area and thus keep him from getting caught, 33 years ago.
I can only hope for the families sake that this is the real thing and not just some crazy looking for attention. What has he told the police that definitely links him to the crime? Is there evidence not released to the public that this man knew?
I find it all suspect.

May. 25 2012 07:10 PM
angry man

why did you take one of my cmts off, WNYC?! the cmmt you left, makes no real sense without the other. i guess, my jewish friends are important enough to be allowed to be self critical,but latinos are somehow dealt with in patronizing way,in not being able to take on our own cultural limitations and pathologies. i'm going to be investigate this further. you're going to get calls and emails from me on this one. i'm absolutely fuming !!

May. 25 2012 06:50 PM

He confessedto get free medical care.

May. 25 2012 04:20 PM

Confession is probably B.S.; the guy is probably nuts and would confess to plotting to blow up the world, blah, blah, blah.

But gives the NYPD good publicity - you know, like they're out there doing something?

May. 25 2012 04:09 PM

Confession is probably B.S.; the guy is probably nuts and would confess to plotting to blow up the world, blah, blah, blah.

But gives the NYPD good publicity - you know, like they're out there doing something?

May. 25 2012 04:08 PM
John McCarthy from Los Angeles

Congratulations to the NYPD superlative investigative techniques (SIT) which finally solved this crime against humanity. Confessions are GREAT!

May. 25 2012 01:10 PM
Shelli from New Jersey

Angry Man begins to touch on something which, although a broad generalization, could open up an examination of very important elements which have profound impact on "creating" people who perpetrate such horrific acts as suspect Hernandez. One is the role of religiousity, the shame and pain it inflicts on people with regard to thier sexuality which is often at the source of thier perverse actions.

Another area that I hope will be questioned and publicized is whether abuse is a part of Hernandez's past. It is imperative that we as a society recognize that abuse; physical, sexual, emotional, leaves profound scars on people that often result in creating people who are now "twisted" in horrible ways. As a society, we must be much more proactive in dealing with abusive behavior, protecting and healing the victims (especially those in thier formative years) and a justice system that doesn't let abusers back into society.

Hernandez was 19 years old when he committed this awful, awful act. Still a kid himself. Has been feeling guilt all these past 33 years. What, we must know, was going through his head then? Why would he do such a violent, terrible thing.

May. 25 2012 11:31 AM
video killed the radio star from nyc

Hernandez confessed to the crime on videotape." I'm sure 2012's NYPD force has come into the digital age. Video and tape belong to a bygone media.

I was so hopeful they would cap this case back in April, but "even better" 33 years to the day of his disappearance/murder.
The universe moves in mysterious ways.

May. 25 2012 11:03 AM
angry man

oh, and if you want to call me a self-hater, fine. i feel that "self-haters" are more often than not, people who willing to look inward,and analyze, the worts and shortcomings, of their cultures collective psyche. moronic, self delusional ethnic chest thumping,simply keeps us in a mode of circular behavioral dysfunction.

May. 25 2012 10:43 AM
Dan from across the bridge

I'm relieved Etan's killer finally will be brought to justice & his family might find some peace.

One small request- please stop calling Hernandez a New Jersey man. He is a New York man who fled New York.

May. 25 2012 07:45 AM
Ed from Larchmont

It sounds like the killer isn't mentally all there. Note that the killer was found 33 years to the day of the murder.

May. 25 2012 05:50 AM

The alleged killer's landlady said, "They are both deeply religious and members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints."

May. 25 2012 12:54 AM

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