Guilty Verdict In Etan Patz Case, Nearly 40 Years After Boy's Disappearance

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance announced today that Pedro Hernandez, 56, has been found guilty in the kidnapping and murder of Etan Patz, 6, who disappeared almost 40 years ago while walking to the school bus in Soho. Patz became the USA's most visible symbol for missing children and his case shaped both parenting and law enforcement practices nationwide.

Patz disappeared as he walked two blocks to a school bus stop on May 25, 1979.

Etan became one of the first missing children pictured on US milk cartons, and the anniversary of his disappearance has been designated National Missing Children's Day.

Moments after the verdict was read, Hernandez's defense attorney Harvey Fishbein vowed to appeal.

Defense lawyer Harvey Fishbein argued in his summation that the real killer is convicted and now imprisoned child molester Jose Ramos, 73, who was a longtime suspect in the case.

Hernandez showed no reaction as jurors delivered their verdict, the AP wrote.

Pedro Hernandez, Patz's accused killer, is on trial for the second time. He was tried once before, but the case ended in a hung jury after all but one juror voted to convict after 18 days of deliberations.

"I am truly relieved and, I'll tell you, it's about time", he continued.

But that jury reached deadlock when just one person on the 12-member panel refused to convict Hernandez.

Hernandez told police he killed Etan in the store's basement by strangling him. Hernandez told authorities he'd left Etan's body, still living, in a box with some trash, but no trace of him has been found since he vanished in a then-edgy but neighborly part of lower Manhattan.

In 1983, then U.S. president Ronald Reagan declared the anniversary of his disappearance National Missing Children's Day.

The 56-year-old Hernandez was found not guilty on charges of intentional second-degree murder, meaning jurors did not believe he meant to kill Patz.

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.

Hernandez, according to testimony at trial, made incriminating statements that varied in their details to a prayer group, an ex-wife and a friend.

But he wasn't a suspect until 2012, when his brother-in-law told police that Hernandez had told a summer 1979 prayer group he had killed a child in NY.

"I just couldn't let go", Pedro said in one of the interviews. But he never confessed and was never prosecuted. Hernandez's defense team says the versions of the story have varied in his different tellings. Prosecutors suggested Hernandez faked or exaggerated his symptoms.

The verdict was handed down nine days after they began deliberations. They claimed his confession to police were coerced.

  • Annette Adams