MISSING IN AMERICA 

Hope For The Missing

Etan Patz

Etan Kalil Patz was born October 9, 1972, declared legally dead in 2001) was an American boy who was six years old when he was abducted and killed on May 25, 1979 in the SoHo neighborhood of Lower Manhattan, New York City. His murder helped launch the missing children movement, which included new legislation and new methods for tracking down missing children, and spawned the "photo on a milk carton" campaigns of the early 1980s. He was the first missing child to have a photo on a milk carton. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan designated May 25—the anniversary of Etan's disappearance—as National Missing Children's Day in the United States.

The case was reopened in 2010 by the Manhattan District Attorney's office. In 2012, the FBI excavated the basement of the alleged crime scene near the Patz residence but discovered no new evidence. Pedro Hernandez—a suspect who confessed— was charged and indicted later that year on charges of second-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping. In 2014, the case went through a series of hearings to determine whether or not Hernandez's statements before he received his Miranda rights were legally admissible at trial. His trial began in January 2015 and ended in a mistrial that May, when one of the 12 jurors held out. A retrial began on October 19, 2016, and concluded on February 14, 2017, after nine days of deliberations. The jury found Hernandez guilty of murder and kidnapping.

The first boy to appear on a milk carton 1979

On the morning of May 25, 1979, Etan left his SoHo apartment at 113 Prince Street by himself for the first time, planning to walk two blocks to board a school bus at West Broadway and Spring Street. He was wearing a blue captain's hat, a blue shirt, blue jeans, and blue sneakers. He never got on the bus.

At school, Etan's teacher noticed his absence but did not report it to the principal. When Etan did not return home after school, his mother Julie called the police. At first, detectives considered the Patzes to be possible suspects but quickly determined they had no involvement. An intense search began that evening, using nearly 100 police officers and a team of bloodhounds. The search continued for weeks. Neighbors and police canvassed the city and placed missing-child posters featuring Etan's portrait, but this resulted in few leads.

Etan's father Stanley was a professional photographer and had a collection of photographs he had taken of his son. His photos of Etan were printed on countless missing-child posters and milk cartons. They were also projected on screens in Times Square.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. officially reopened the case on May 25, 2010. On April 19, 2012, FBI and NYPD investigators began excavating the SoHo basement of 127-B Prince Street, near the Patz home. This residence had been newly refurbished shortly after Etan's disappearance in 1979, and the basement had been the workshop and storage space of a handyman.After a four-day search, investigators announced that there was "nothing conclusive found."


On May 24, 2012, New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly announced that a man was in custody who had implicated himself in Etan's disappearance. According to The New York Times, a law enforcement official identified the man as 51-year-old Pedro Hernandez of Maple Shade, New Jersey, and said that he had confessed to strangling the child. According to a 2009 book about the case, After Etan, Etan had a dollar and had told his parents he planned to buy an ice-cold Coca-Cola to drink with his lunch.At the time of Etan's disappearance, Hernandez was an 18-year-old convenience store worker in a neighborhood bodega. Hernandez said that he later threw Etan's remains into the garbage.Hernandez was charged with second-degree murder. According to a New York Times report from May 25, 2012, the police at that time had no physical evidence to corroborate his confession.

Statements in May 2012 by Hernandez's sister, Nina Hernandez, and Tomas Rivera, leader of a Charismatic Christianity group at St. Anthony of Padua, a Roman Catholic church in Camden, New Jersey, indicated that Hernandez may have publicly confessed to murdering Etan in the presence of fellow parishioners in the early 1980s. According to Hernandez's sister, it was an "open family secret that he had confessed in the church." A New York grand jury indicted Hernandez on November 14, 2012, on charges of second-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping. His lawyer has stated that Hernandez was diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder, which includes hallucinations.The lawyer has also said his client has a low IQ of around 70, "at the border of intellectual disability.

On December 12, 2012, Hernandez pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and one count of kidnapping in a New York court.In April 2013, Harvey Fishbein, a Legal aid criminal defense lawyer for Pedro Hernandez, filed a motion to dismiss the case, citing that Hernandez's "confession in one of the nation's most notorious child disappearances was false, peppered with questionable claims and made after almost seven hours of police questioning".The next month, however, Manhattan State Supreme Court Justice Maxwell Wiley ruled that the evidence was "legally sufficient to support the charges" and that the case could move forward. He also ordered a hearing to determine whether the defendant's statements could be used at trial.

Hernandez had a hearing in September 2014 about whether his statements made prior to police giving him his Miranda rights were legally admissible at trial. This would be influenced by whether or not he felt free to leave during the time before he was informed of his Miranda rights. The hearing was also to determine whether or not he understood the significance of the Miranda rights and was competent to waive them when he did so. This was significant because it would decide whether any statements made after that point by Hernandez were legally admissible at trial. The actual truth or falsehood of the statements was not the focus of the hearing;rather, the question of the statements' truthfulness was to be discussed in the trial, which began on January 5, 2015.

The case resulted in a mistrial in May 2015 due to a hung jury, which was deadlocked 11 against 1 for conviction.A retrial began on October 19, 2016, in a New York City court,with jury deliberations in February 2017.On February 14, 2017, Hernandez was found guilty of kidnapping and felony murder.Sentencing is scheduled on February 28. Hernandez faces up to 25 years to life in prison.

Pedro Hernandez Convicted
Etan walked into the bodega where Hernandez worked with $1 in his pocket to buy a soda to go with his lunch, and Hernandez strangled him to death — for no obvious reason — disposing of his corpse in the garbage. Police never considered Hernandez a suspect until more than 30 years later, when interest in the case was briefly revived after they excavated the basement of a nearby home in response to a tip. A member of Hernandez’s family who knew of his church confession suggested to police that he might be the man responsible for Etan’s death.

Hernandez was brought in for questioning, and originally denied knowing anything about the case or even having seen the picture of Etan he was shown. (The picture had been inescapable in the neighborhood; it had, in fact, been displayed in the bodega where he worked.) But Hernandez has many problems, and is sick with complications related to HIV. He eventually confessed.


Pedro Hernandez found guilty

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