Published: Wed, February 15, 2017
USA | By Angel Wallace

Etan Patz killing: Man guilty over boy's 1979 murder

Etan Patz killing: Man guilty over boy's 1979 murder

Almost four decades after six-year-old Etan Patz disappeared on his way to school never to be seen again, a former store clerk has been found guilty of murdering the child in a New York City basement after enticing him there with a soft drink.

The case originally spurred a national hotline for missing children and simplified sharing of information among law enforcement agencies.

The boy vanished as he walked alone to a school bus stop in the city's SoHo neighborhood on May 25, 1979.

Etan became one of the first missing children ever pictured on milk cartons, and the anniversary of his disappearance has been designated National Missing Children's Day.

"We're obviously terribly disappointed", said Hernandez's lawyer Harvey Fishbein.

Jurors delivered their verdict Tuesday. Pedro ended up being convicted of felony murder and was acquitted of second-degree murder by the jury, which most likely suggests they believe he did not mean to kill the child.

"I am truly relieved and, I'll tell you, it's about time", he continued. Hernandez was tried on murder charges previous year, but a Manhattan jury could not reach a verdict after 18 days.

In 2015, the Etan Patz case was thrust back into the national spotlight as 12 jurors holed up for more than 100 hours trying to determine who was responsible for the boy's disappearance and death.

Prosecutors commended Stan Patz, who never stopped hoping that the killer would one day be found. He initially confessed that he lured the boy into the store's basement with the promise of a free soda, then strangled him - however, he later retracted his confession. "I've known for a long time that this man Pedro Hernandez is guilty of doing something really awful so many years ago", he said.

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

Hernandez was not considered a suspect until 2012 after his brother-in-law informed police that he had made statements about killing a child to several people.

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. He said jurors also looked closely at the other suspect but concluded he was toying with authorities by making chilling statements but not confessing.

Prosecutors, however, said there was never enough evidence to link Ramos to Etan's disappearance.

Prosecutors said Hernandez had seen the little boy numerous times at the bodega where he worked, brought him down into the basement where he sexually abused him, then killed the boy to hide what he had done. He said he put his body in a garbage bag, which he put in a dumpster. He said he'd wanted to tell someone, "but I didn't know how to do it".

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