Jury finds Pedro Hernandez guilty in murder, kidnapping of Etan Patz


A New York City jury on Tuesday found a former delicatessen worker guilty of murdering Etan Patz, a 6-year-old boy whose disappearance had been one of the highest-profile unsolved cases in the United States for almost 40 years. The case became a cautionary tale for parents, and Etan's picture was put on milk cartons as part of a nascent national movement to find missing children.

Patz was never again seen by his family after he left home to walk to the school bus stop nearby. Prosecutors portrayed Hernandez as the missing piece in a jigsaw puzzle - a man at the right place at the right time who put the body in a dumpster where it would have been trucked to a landfill before Etan's parents ever knew he was missing, and who left NY and sought forgiveness at a religious retreat within weeks of the disappearance. For years, Hernandez's attorneys have said that he has schizophrenia, a mental disorder that includes hallucinations and delusions. But his attorney Harvey Fishbein has said that his mentally ill client made it up and that the evidence points to another suspect in the case.

Pedro Hernandez, Patz's accused killer, is on trial for the second time. He said he though the boy was still alive at the time.

Hernandez was an 18-year-old bodega worker in the neighborhood at the time. Hernandez had reportedly told several people that he had killed a young person, though never mentioned Patz by name.

The jury verdict against Pedro Hernandez gave Etan's relatives a resolution they had sought since May 1979 and gave prosecutors a conviction that eluded them when a 2015 jury deadlocked.

During summation in this re-trial, Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon played a montage of the defendant's many confessions to police, prosecutors and psychiatric experts since his arrest. 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.

Pedro Hernandez appears in Manhattan Criminal Court in New York November 15, 2012. Jurors found Hernandez guilty of murder and kidnapping but acquitted him on a second murder charge.

"When he went in front of me, I grabbed his neck and I started to choke him".

But prosecutors suggested Hernandez faked or exaggerated his symptoms.

Defense lawyers and doctors portrayed Hernandez as man with psychological problems and intellectual limitations that not only made him imagine he'd killed Etan but made him susceptible to confessing falsely after more than six hours of questioning.

"The defense threw a lot of theories out there", Castellon said, but they weren't convincing - if compelling enough for jurors to deliberate for nine days.

The holdout juror later said that he believed the confession was coerced.