A judge has decided that a trial can proceed for a man charged with murder in the 1979 disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz. Ida Siegal reports.
A judge has decided that a trial can proceed for a man charged with murder in the 1979 disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz.
Pedro Hernandez of Maple Shade, N.J., is accused of abducting and killing Patz, who was last seen walking to his school bus stop in 1979. His body has never been found.
Hernandez confessed to killing Patz after his arrest last year and had made incriminating remarks years before. But his lawyer argued that Hernandez is schizophrenic and bipolar, and that his admission was false, peppered with questionable claims and made after almost seven hours of police questioning.
"No evidence or witnesses have been found corroborating any of the few facts" in Hernandez's confession, defense lawyer Harvey Fishbein wrote last month in papers arguing that the case should be dismissed.
The Manhattan district attorney's office argued there's enough proof to sustain the case, Hernandez willingly talked with investigators and prosecutors don't believe his confession is a mentally ill man's imaginings. Under New York law, a person can be convicted based only on a confession, if there's additional evidence that a crime was committed.
A judge said Wednesday that the grand jury proceeding was legally sufficient to continue.
Etan vanished on May 25, 1979; the anniversary later was named National Missing Children's Day in his memory.
Hernandez, 52, was arrested last May after police got a tip that he'd told people years before that he had killed a child in New York City.
Hernandez then told authorities he'd seen Etan at the bus stop, offered the boy a soda to entice him to a corner store where Hernandez worked and choked the boy in the basement. Hernandez said he tossed Etan's book bag behind a basement freezer, put his limp body in a box and left it with some trash about a block away.