The man who confessed to killing Etan Patz - the 6-year-old boy who vanished from his New York neighborhood three decades ago - was due in court on Wednesday and expected to enter a plea in the child’s murder.
Pedro Hernandez, 51, of Maple Shade, New Jersey, admitted in May he lured the boy and strangled him on May 25, 1979. In the 1970s, Hernandez had worked at a deli near the Patz home in the downtown Soho neighborhood.
Patz disappeared on his first walk alone to a school bus stop. He was one of the first missing children whose face appeared on a milk carton as part of an appeal for information from the public. The boy’s body has not been found but he was legally declared dead years ago.
In the months after Hernandez confessed during a police interview, a grand jury indicted him on two counts of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree kidnapping.
Hernandez’s lawyer, Harvey Fishbein, has said his client suffers from schizophrenia, has hallucinations and his statements to police are not reliable.
“They are what we term false confessions,” Fishbein has told reporters.
Fishbein has said there is no other evidence beyond the confession that would point to Hernandez as the killer.
A spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, Erin Duggan, said prosecutors believe Hernandez’s confession will withstand scrutiny.
For years, Jose Ramos, a friend of Patz’s babysitter, was the prime suspect in the case, although he was never criminally charged. Ramos was found liable for Patz’s death in a 2004 civil case.
Ramos, 69, was released in November from a Pennsylvania prison after serving 20 years for molesting children but was immediately rearrested on other charges.
Fishbein said he would request any evidence against Ramos from law enforcement as part of Hernandez’s defense.