A South Jersey man accused of killing a New York City boy in one of the nation's most notorious missing child cases was charged with 2nd-degree murder while in the hospital, according to police.
Police say Pedro Hernandez, 51, of Maple Shade, NJ, confessed this week to strangling 6-year-old Etan Patz in the basement of a Manhattan convenience store where he worked in 1979.
“Hernandez described to the detectives how he lured young Etan from the school bus stop at West Broadway and Prince Street with the promise of a soda”, said Commissioner Raymond Kelly of the New York City Police Department.
Hernandez confessed his crime to a relative who called the New York Police Department, according to investigators. The NYPD then took Hernandez into custody Wednesday night where they say he admitted to killing the boy.
Hernandez was taken to Bellevue Hospital early Friday to get medication for an existing health problem. The family of Hernandez claims he has prostate cancer.
While he was there, psychologists questioned him about his mental state. Police say the doctors later ordered him admitted to the hospital after he made suicidal statements.
An arraignment was held for Hernandez via a video link from his hospital room on Friday. During the arraignment, he was charged with 2nd-degree murder. A judge also ordered a mental evaluation of Hernandez. His lawyer claims his client is bipolar, schizophrenic and has a history of hallucinations. Today's arraignment comes 33 years to the day of when Patz went missing. Maple Shade residents who knew Hernandez are shocked.
“I just can’t believe that a monster lived next door and was near my baby,” said Jeannie Cool, who lived next door to Hernandez.
Cool says her 4-year-old granddaughter often played in the backyard, just feet away from the Hernandez property.
“It’s weird, it’s a really weird feeling because you’re living right next to a killer,” said local resident Chuck Diehm.
“I just feel for the mother,” said Cool. “At least she’ll get some type of closure.”
The sister of Hernandez, who wants to remain anonymous, also spoke to NBC10.
"I'm very sorry about what happened," she tearfully said. "That could have been my child and I keep him in my prayers."
The sister tells NBC10 she remembers her brother being unhappy growing up and occasionally showing a temper though she never felt afraid of him or in any danger around him. At this point she says she hopes her brother somehow only imagined he committed the crime.
"This is a nightmare," she said. "We have to hide ourselves from the neighbors and from everybody. This is a nightmare."
The judge ordered Hernandez to be held without bail. Hernandez will also undergo a psychological exam to determine if he's fit to stand trial.