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Etan Patz suspect indicted in ‘79 death of boy

FILE - This undated file image provided by New York Police Department shows flyer distributed by New York Police Department

FILE - This undated file image provided by the New York Police Department shows a flyer distributed by the New York Police Department of Etan Patz, who vanished in New York on May 25, 1979. Pedro Hernandez, 51, the suspect in the 1979 disappearance of a Patz, has been indicted on charges of murder and kidnapping in the disappearance of Patz, his lawyer Harvey Fishbein said Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. Hernandez was arrested this year, and investigators say he confessed. (AP Photo/Courtesy New York Police Department) EDITORIAL USE ONLY, FOR USE ONLY IN ILLUSTRATING EDITORIAL STORIES REGARDING THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ETAN PATZ OR OTHER MISSING CHILDREN

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Updated: November 15, 2012 8:32AM



NEW YORK — The suspect in the infamous 1979 disappearance of a 6-year-old boy from his New York City neighborhood has been formally charged with murder and kidnapping, a major milestone in a case that has stymied investigators and Etan Patz’s devoted family for decades.

Pedro Hernandez, 51, of Maple Shade, N.J., was indicted by a New York City grand jury. He was arrested earlier this year, and investigators say he confessed. The indictment was made public Wednesday.

Hernandez is due back in court on Thursday. The district attorney’s office had no immediate comment.

Etan’s disappearance led to an intensive search and spawned a movement to publicize cases of missing children. His photo was among the first put on milk cartons, and his case turned May 25 into National Missing Children’s Day.

The boy’s body has never been found. Etan’s parents, Stan and Julie Patz, have been reluctant to move or even change their phone number in case their son tried to reach out.

Etan was declared legally dead by his father more than a decade ago so he could sue convicted child molester Jose Ramos in the boy’s death.

Ramos, now 69, had been dating the boy’s baby sitter in 1979 and was considered a suspect. He was later convicted of molesting two different children and is in a Pennsylvania prison.

But investigators began focusing on Hernandez this year after a tipster called police about comments by Hernandez’s sister that she heard secondhand he told a church prayer group in the 1980s that he killed a child in New York City.

Hernandez, now a married father, was a teenage stock clerk at a convenience store when Etan disappeared on his way to school on May 25, 1979. Police say Hernandez told investigators he lured the boy into the convenience store with the promise of a soda.

He allegedly said he led the child to the basement, choked him and left his body in a bag of trash about a block away. The convenience store is now an eyeglass shop, and city records pinpointing where garbage was dumped don’t go back that far.

Defense attorney Harvey Fishbein has described Hernandez as bipolar and schizophrenic, with a history of hallucinations. The diagnosis could become the basis of psychiatric defense claiming that Hernandez agreed to speak to police without understanding his rights, and that the purported confession was a sick fantasy.



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