A New York City jury on Tuesday found a former delicatessen worker guilty of murdering Etan Patz, a six-year-old boy whose disappearance in 1979 raised national awareness of the plight of abducted children and their parents.
The conviction of Pedro Hernandez, 56, came during his second trial in state court. It followed a 2015 mistrial that occurred after a single juror refused to go along with 11 other panelists who were convinced of his guilt.
After the verdict was read in court, Patz’s father, Stan, shared hugs with prosecutors. Hernandez is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 28.
The boy vanished as he walked alone to a school bus stop in the city’s SoHo neighborhood on May 25, 1979 and for decades was one of New York’s most infamous unsolved mysteries.
His picture became one of the first to appear on milk cartons, which in the 1980s became a popular way to seek leads about missing children. His disappearance also helped bring about a national database of such cases.
Hernandez confessed to police in 2012, saying on videotape that he had lured the child to the basement of the deli where he worked near the Patz home and strangled him.
He later recanted, and his attorneys argued the confession was the product of mental illness, including hallucinations, and coercion by the police.
Patz’s body was never found despite a massive search, and prosecutors had no physical evidence tying Hernandez to the disappearance. Instead, they relied largely on Hernandez’s confession and on statements he had made to others over the years referring to the kidnapping.
He was initially arrested five years ago, after his brother-in-law called authorities to report his suspicions.—Reuters