Pedro Hernandez found guilty in Etan Patz murder

15 February, 2017, 00:27 | Author: Michele Stevens
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A New York City jury on Tuesday convicted Pedro Hernandez of killing Etan Patz, the 6-year-old boy who disappeared from his Soho neighborhood in 1979.

The May 1979 disappearance of Etan as he walked to his bus stop by himself for the first time became one of the highest profile crimes in New York's history, and led to parental anxiety nationwide about leaving children unattended.

"The disappearance of Etan Patz haunted families in NY and across the country for almost four decades", Vance Jr. said.

Defense attorney Harvey Fishbein has long maintained his client has an "IQ in the borderline-to-mild mental retardation range" that made him susceptible to a false confession.

Hernandez showed no reaction as jurors delivered their verdict, the AP wrote.

Hernandez's first trial, in 2015, ended with a hung jury after 18 days of deliberations. A lone holdout juror was unconvinced of his guilt, causing the judge to declare a mistrial in May 2015. "I was nervous. His legs were jerking", Hernandez said during a six-hour interrogation by police.

No trace of the boy has ever been found, and no physical evidence was presented during the trial.

Hernandez, who worked as a shop clerk near where Etan lived, confessed to luring the boy into his basement with a drink before choking him to death.

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Stanley Patz, Etan's father, told The New York Times after the verdict: "I'm really grateful - I'm really grateful - this jury finally came back with what I've known for a long time that this man, Pedro Hernandez, is guilty of doing something really awful so many years ago".

In 1983, then United States president Ronald Reagan declared the anniversary of his disappearance National Missing Children's Day.

Pedro Hernandez appears in Manhattan Criminal Court in New York November 15, 2012.

The panel deliberated for nine days before convicting Pedro Hernandez - the bodega worker who had made disputed confessions to the 1979 slaying.

Over the years, Hernandez told a friend, his ex-wife and a church group that he had killed a young person in NY by choking and dumping the body, though the details varied, according to trial testimony. Hernandez has confessed multiple times to killing the boy throughout his life, including to his ex-wife and to police.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said the jury "affirmed beyond all lasting doubt that Pedro Hernandez kidnapped and killed the missing child" in "one of the city's most famous and formative cases". "I wanted to just let him go but there was something that took over in me, and I squeezed him more and more". He said jurors also looked closely at the other suspect but concluded he was toying with authorities by making chilling statements but not confessing.

He described in detail putting Patz's still-breathing body into a plastic bag then into a produce box before dumping it in an alley two blocks away.

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