After deliberating for nine days, a jury has found Pedro Hernandez guilty for the kidnapping and murder of Etan Patz, a six-year-old Manhattan boy who vanished in 1979 when he was on his way to a school bus stop in SoHo. Hernandez had worked as a deli clerk in the neighborhood at the time of Patz's disappearance.
This was Hernandez's second trial for the Patz murder. His first trial ended in a mistrial in 2015 after 18 days of deliberations, with one holdout juror unable to agree to find him guilty.
The NYPD had reopened the case of Etan's disappearance in 2012. Though they had no new evidence, Hernandez had allegedly "confessed" about strangling a boy to relatives and his church group. But detectives obtained a confession only after interrogating him for hours without a lawyer, which Hernandez's defense claimed was questionable because of his mental health issues, which include schizophrenia.
The holdout juror later said that he believed the confession was coerced. And Hernandez's defense team had also argued that one Jose Ramos, a drifter who dated Etan's babysitter and was later convicted of molesting little boys, was a more likely suspect. Ramos told investigators he was 90% sure he had taken Etan and was eventually found guilty of Etan's death in a 2004 civil case. The jury in this case was ultimately persuaded of Ramos's guilt. From the Times:
In the various interviews recorded on video, which prosecutors repeatedly played for jurors during the four-month trial, Mr. Hernandez described encountering a boy on the sidewalk outside the bodega and asking him if he wanted a soda. He told investigators that he led him down the steps into the basement, and then, he started choking the boy as his own legs quivered. He said he put the boy into a plastic bag and the bag into a box, which he left with garbage nearby. But, he said, he believed the child was still alive.
He also signed one of the “missing” posters, confirming for investigators that Etan was the boy he attacked. “I just couldn’t let go,” Mr. Hernandez said in one of the interviews. “I felt like something just took over me.”
He did not offer a motive, claiming he had not sexually abused Etan or any other child. But in her closing arguments, [prosecutor Joan] Illuzzi argued otherwise, calling it the likely reason for the attack.