Exactly 33 years to the day after 6-year-old Etan Patz allegedly was murdered in the basement of a SoHo bodega, the suspect in the murder, 51-year-old Pedro Hernandez, has been placed on suicide watch at Bellevue Hospital.
Police say placing Hernandez on suicide watch is precautionary, but that the suspect has a history of unspecified mental health problems.
Hernandez says he’d never seen Patz prior to the day he allegedly murdered him, but reportedly told police that he “knew [Patz] was the one . . . [I] just felt the urge to kill.”
Hernandez denies sexually abusing the boy prior to murdering him.
Hernandez was arrested yesterday in Camden, New Jersey. NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly says Hernandez made statements to police implicating himself in Patz’s disappearance — he says Hernandez used the promise of a soda to lure the boy into a bodega where he worked, which is located about two blocks from Patz’s parents’ home. 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.”
In the 1980s, Hernandez — who was 18 when the murder occurred — confessed to family members and to a religious mentor that he murdered a child. Last month, when the case got new life when authorities tore up a SoHo basement (which at the time of the murder was a workshop for neighborhood handyman Othneil Miller, who was once considered a suspect) looking for the boy’s remains, Hernandez’s brother-in-law told police about the confession.
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.
Hernandez is expected to be charged with second-degree murder. He’s expected to be arraigned later today. Check back for updates.