• Melissa Rosales

EIV: Pedro Hernandez found guilty of 1979 kidnapping and murder of Etan Patz

Link to story: http://www.eivnews.com/archives/4645

After almost 38 years, Pedro Hernandez was found guilty last Tuesday for the kidnapping and murder of 6-year-old Etan Patz, according to the New York Times.

A Manhattan jury convicted him on the ninth day of deliberations, after two lengthy trials. Jurors went back to court last Tuesday after watching Hernandez’s confession “for the 100th time” as one juror described. The judge then received a note saying the panel has reached an agreement.

The vote was a victory for Cyrus R. Vance Jr., a Manhattan district attorney, after the mistrial in 2015 that ended due to a single juror declining to convict.

“I’m relieved, and I’m relieved because I think it’s the right result,” Vance said. “I think it can bring all of us together in a moment of closure and healing,” he added, explaining Patz’s disappearance as “something that has stayed with us as a city and as a community of New Yorkers.”

In May 25, 1979, the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend, Etan jolted out of bed. He had been pushing his mother to let him be more independent and pleaded to be allowed to walk two blocks to the bus stop on his own. Julie Patz, Etan’s mother, hesitantly agreed. Etan planned to stop in the bodega (a small grocery store) for a soda on the way. Later that afternoon, when Etan didn’t return, Ms. Patz testified, she made some phone calls and discovered that he never made it to school or boarded the bus.

At that time, Mr. Hernandez was an 18-year-old high school dropout who just came to New York from Camden, N.J. Prosecutors said that shortly after the disappearance, Mr. Hernandez returned to New Jersey. Etan Patz’s body was never found.

Although the prosecution team didn’t have any forensic evidence to support their case, they turned to Hernandez’s detailed confession and mental health experts’ evaluation of him to build a case.

CNN reported Hernandez’s confession, saying that he met a boy outside the bodega and asked him if he wanted a soda. After, he kidnapped and choked Etan Patz to death in his basement. Hernandez then put Etan’s body in a garbage bag that he hid inside a cardboard box  left with other trash in an alley away from the store. He believes that Etan was still breathing when he left.

Hernandez’s lawyers showed him as struggling with a mental illness called schizotypal personality disorder, a disorder that includes severe paranoia, social anxiety and unusual beliefs. They also stressed that Hernandez has an “IQ in the borderline-to-mild mental retardation range” which made it possible to give a false confession after his seven and a half hour interrogation.

Hernandez, 56, is to be sentenced on Feb. 28. He faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison for kidnapping and murder charges, prosecutors said.