The Lookout

New Jersey man charged with murder in death of Etan Patz

The Lookout

A New Jersey man accused of luring 6-year-old Etan Patz into a New York City convenience store in 1979 and killing him has been charged with second-degree murder. The man, 51-year-old Pedro Hernandez, was arrested on Thursday.

Announcing the arrest on Thursday, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters that police had "received information from an individual which led them to identify Hernandez as a person of interest."

"Hernandez had told a family members and others that he had quote done a bad thing and killed a child in New York," Kelly said. Kelly provided no indication of motive in the crime.

After being questioned by investigators, Hernandez returned with officers to the New York convenience store where Patz was killed and where Hernandez worked at the time.

"Hernandez described  to the detectives how he lured young Etan from the school bus stop … with the promise of a soda," Kelly said. Hernandez told officers he then stuffed the young boy's body into a garbage bag, Kelly said, and disposed of it elsewhere in the neighborhood.

Hernandez is being held at Bellevue Hospital and is under suicide watch. In a Friday evening court appearance, Hernandez's lawyer said his client is mentally ill and has a "history of hallucinations, both visual and auditory."

[Related: Officials explain why the case was reopened]

The New York Daily News reported that Hernandez was picked up in Camden, N.J., on Wednesday.

Etan went missing on May 25, 1979, while walking alone to his school bus stop for the first time. The bus stop was a just blocks from his home in New York City's SoHo neighborhood. His disappearance sparked the movement to put the faces of missing children on milk cartons.

[Related: How Etan's disappearance changed a generation]

The New York Daily News reported that Hernandez had come up on investigators' radar in the past as a convenience-store clerk who worked in Etan's neighborhood at the time the boy vanished.


"Everyone is looking for closure," Roz Radd, who has lived in neighborhood for 45 years, told the Daily News. "Hopefully, he can tell us where his body is and the family can get some peace."

The case received renewed attention in April when a basement was excavated near where Etan disappeared. However, it yielded no obvious human remains and little evidence that could help solve the mystery of what happened to the boy.

Update 10:15 P.M. EST: This piece has been updated to reflect comments by Hernandez's lawyer.

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