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The man authorities believe is responsible for the 1979 kidnapping and death of 6-year-old Etan Patz was indicted on murder charges this afternoon — five months after confessing to killing the boy.
Pedro Hernandez has been charged with two counts of second degree murder and one count of kidnapping for Patz’s high-profile disappearance, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office confirms to the Voice.
Hernandez confessed in May to the decades-old murder after Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s decision to reopen the case uncovered new leads.
One of those leads prompted authorities to tear up a SoHo basement in April looking for the boy’s remains.
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 at the time was the new “target” of their investigation. Miller was never charged and it was determined he had no connection to Patz’s disappearance.
But the media attention the case received put Patz’s disappearance back in the spotlight, which spawned even more leads for investigators, including the one that led to Hernandez’s arrest.
Authorities say that 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 the SoHo basement, one those family members told authorities about the confession.
In May, following his arrest, Hernandez confessed to killing Patz in the basement of a store just a few blocks from Patz’s family’s SoHo home. After strangling him,Hernandez told police that he put the boy’s body in a bag and stuck him on the curb to be taken away with the trash. Patz’s body was never found.
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’s confession is complicated by the fact that he supposedly suffers from mental illness — he experiences audio and visual hallucinations — and could potentially be making the whole thing up.
But authorities say they believe his confession is legit.
“This indictment is the outcome of a lengthy and deliberative process, involving months of factual investigation and legal analysis. We believe the evidence that Mr. Hernandez killed Etan Patz to be credible and persuasive, and that his statements are not the product of any mental illness,” Manhattan District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Erin Duggan says. “The grand jury has found sufficient evidence to charge the defendant and this is a case that we believe should be presented to a jury at trial.”
Hernandez is due in court tomorrow.