More than 30 years after the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz, it seems authorities finally have their man — and props must go out to Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance for his decision to reopen a case that sat cold for more than three decades.
Vance didn’t crack the case, nor did he lead police to the alleged killer, 51-year-old Pedro Hernandez. But the attention the Patz case got last month — when authorities investigated another possible suspect — inspired Hernandez’s brother-in-law to tell police that Hernandez confessed to him and other family members that he’d murdered a child in Manhattan about the same time Patz was first reported missing. That probably never would have happened had Vance not reopened the case in 2010.
Manhattan District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Erin Duggan tells the Voice that Vance doesn’t consider cold cases like Patz’s to be a lost cause. At a press conference last year to announce the indictment of Rodney Alcala — a convicted California serial killer who authorities say is responsible for at least two murders in New York in the 1970s — Vance told reporters that “cold cases should not be forgotten cases.”
Duggan says Vance first met Patz’s father, Stan Patz, while running
for D.A. in 2010 and felt that a fresh look at the case might turn up
new leads. He was right, and now an alleged kid-killer is behind bars.
Patz’s isn’t the only case that’s getting looked at with a fresh set
of eyes — the D.A.’s office’s Cold Case Unit (created by Vance after he took office)
currently is looking into more than 3,000 unsolved homicide cases to see
if new scientific advancements, like DNA technology, will turn up
Since Vance took office, the Cold Case Unit has solved several
unsolved homicides, including the case of a pregnant mother of nine who
was raped and murdered on a Manhattan rooftop in 1989. In that case, the
victim’s head was cut off by her abusive boyfriend, Philip Ward — the
father of two of her children — who currently
is a guest of the state doing a life sentence for different rape and
So, in the spirit of giving credit where credit is due, an alleged
kid-killer is behind bars — and we have Cy Vance to thank for it.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 25, 2012