Over the weekend, New Yorkers experienced an episode of dueling headlines, with each of the city’s two daily tabloids printing two seemingly contradictory front-page stories regarding the arrest of Pedro Hernandez, the suspect in the 1979 disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz.
On Saturday, the front page of the New York Post announced that there was a “secret clue” in the Patz case and that the “suspect knew ‘intimate details’ only [the] killer would.” The story quotes anonymous NYPD sources who claim Hernandez knows things about Patz’s death that only the killer — and a handfull of high-ranking NYPD officials — would know.
On Sunday, over at the New York Daily News, the cover claimed the following: “Etan: FBI’s Doubt,” arguing that despite the fact that Hernandez confessed to murdering Patz, the FBI isn’t buying the confession, and is desperately searching for any corroborating evidence to support the claims of a man with “mental problems.” The paper claims anonymous police sources say the feds think there are inconsistencies in Hernandez story and that he could be making up his account of strangling Patz, putting him in a refrigerator, stuffing his small body into a bag, and then dumping him in a pile of trash.
The competing publications have an incessant need to find their own angles on a story — especially one as big as the presumed murder of Etan Patz. However, they seem to be exploring contradictory avenues in doing so — the Post appears to think Hernandez is the killer, while the Daily News isn’t ready to rule out a false confession, as was the case of John Mark Karr (now known as “Alexis Reich”), who falsely confessed to murdering JonBenet Ramsey.
We don’t necessarily have a horse in this race, and aren’t entirely sure what to think.
Law enforcement officials we’ve spoken with seem pretty certain Hernandez is the killer. And the fact that the Post claims NYPD sources say Hernandez knows things only the killer would know (while not saying what those things are) is pretty compelling stuff when arguing that Hernandez is the killer.
However, there currently is no physical evidence (that we know of, anyway) linking Hernandez to the crime he claims he committed. And a confession alone is not enough to convict someone of murder — which doesn’t necessarily mean Hernandez didn’t do it, it just means it will be tough to get a conviction without something other than the word of a mentally ill murder suspect.
We want to know what you think, though: do the cops have the right man in Hernandez?
Cast your vote below.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 29, 2012