The suspect has been identified as Pedro Hernandez, 51, who was arrested yesterday in Camden, New Jersey. Kelly says Hernandez made statements to police implicating himself in Patz’s disappearance — he says Hernandez used candy to lure the boy into a bodega where he worked. He then attacked him, choking the 6-year-old to death before throwing the remains in the garbage.
“We have a written confession, a signed confession,” Kelly says. “We
believe there is probable cause to go forward with this arrest.”
It’s unclear whether Hernandez has been charged with any crimes yet. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office — the agency that reopened the decades-old case when Cy Vance took office in 2010 — will make any charging decisions. However, Kelly’s insistence that there is probable cause to arrest Hernandez indicates that police believe they’ve got their man, and Hernandez isn’t just a lunatic using the boy’s death to get his name in the papers like John Mark Karr, who in 2010 falsely claimed he murdered JonBenet Ramsey.
In the 1980s, Hernandez — who was 19 when the murder occurred — confessed to family members and to a religious mentor that he
murdered a child. After the case got new life when authorities tore up a SoHo basement last month looking for the boy’s remains, one those family members told authorities about the confession.
Authorities found nothing when they tore up the basement, which was used at the time of Patz’s disappearance as a workshop
for neighborhood handyman Othneil Miller, 75, who police said was the
new “target” of their investigation. Miller was never charged.
Patz — who was the first missing child to appear on the side of a milk
carton — was last seen on May 25, 1979, as he was walking just two blocks
to a bus stop on his way to school. It was the first time he’d made the trip alone. He was never seen again — and was
declared dead in 2001.
Vance’s office is yet to comment on the case. Check back tomorrow for updates.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 24, 2012