Etan Patz – The Face on the Milk Carton : Facts
Six-year-old Etan Patz was walking two blocks from his home to the school bus stop on May 25, 1979, when he disappeared. It was the first day his parents had allowed him to make the short trip by himself.
His disappearance threw the city of New York, and then the nation, into a panic. There was no trace of the child, no witnesses, no evidence, and no leads. The boy was simply, inexplicably, gone. His face was posted on every street lamp, seen in every newscast and appeared soon on every milk carton, asking for anyone with information to step forward. No one ever did, and the case languished and grew cold.
Two years ago, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office reopened the case. They excavated a basement in lower Manhattan, looking for clues or remains. There was nothing.
This May, a source came forward with information that 51-year-old Pedro Hernandez had once admitted to “killing a child in New York.” Law enforcement went to Hernandez’s home in New Jersey and questioned him for hours. Hernandez told the police that he had been working at a convenience store near the Patz residence in 1979, and that on May 29 he lured the boy into his shop with a cold soda.
After speaking with the police for hours, Hernandez made a full written confession, telling investigators that he strangled the boy. Hernandez admitted that he wrapped up the body in a plastic bag, then a box, and stored it in a basement cold storage unit for three days before dumping it in the trash.
As the furor over the missing boy came to a head, Hernandez left his job at the shop for New Jersey, where he has lived quietly ever since. He has no criminal record.
The police arrested Hernandez, and he is currently in custody at Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital, where he is being treated for various mental disorders. According to family members, he has suffered from hallucinations related to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder for years. The case is on hold while psychiatrists evaluate Hernandez’s mental health.
Based on the confession, the Manhattan District Attorney has charged Hernandez with second-degree murder. On November 14, 2012, a New York County grand jury indicted Hernandez on two charges of second degree murder and one charge of first degree kidnapping. Following Hernandez’ confession police launched a full investigation that included more than 300 interviews and a search of at least six separate sites, but have not yet identified any corroborating evidence.
Update 2/19/14 – Pedro Hernandez’ murder trial is being postponed for months as psychiatric exams and other preparations continue. The 51-year-old was tentatively set to go on trial in April in the case surrounding Etan Patz but a judge said Feb.19 he now anticipates the trial starting in September.