A confession in Etan case, but did he really do it?
BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Police took a New Jersey man, Pedro Hernandez, 51, into custody last week after he confessed to murdering Etan Patz in Soho 33 years ago.
Following Hernandez’s confession, police on Friday morning descended on the northwest corner of West Broadway and Prince St., where Hernandez, in his confession, had told them he briefly worked at a bodega as a shelf-stocker around the time of Etan’s disappearance. Today, the location is home to an eyeglasses store.
The day he vanished, Etan, 6, had been going to school by himself for the first time. The suspect told police he saw the boy waiting at the bus stop that morning, and lured him with a soda into the bodega’s basement — accessible through a hatch in the sidewalk. There, Hernandez said he strangled the little boy, before putting his body in a bag, and then a box and then leaving it among a pile of garbage in a nearby alley on Thompson St.
Hernandez is currently being held on suicide watch at Bellevue Hospital. He reportedly had previously told family members and his New Jersey church group that he had done a terrible thing when he was 18 — killing a child. But he suffers from mental illness, and some in law enforcement aren’t convinced he did it. Police are working to find evidence to corroborate his confession.
If he did kill Etan and dispose of the body, its location would be almost impossible to pinpoint, since the Department of Sanitation didn’t start keeping records of disposals until about 10 years later.
Also last Friday morning, Stan and Julie Patz arrived back at their Soho apartment — just about two blocks away from the latest crime-scene investigation in the case. They had been attending their daughter’s graduation in Harvard, and returned to their Prince St. home in a black Dodge minivan. Police detectives accompanied them and helped unload their bags, bins of stuff and a wheelchair and walker. An older woman who walked with difficulty was also with the Patzes.
The Patzes didn’t talk to reporters then. But this Tuesday, Julie told reporters and photographers who have been camped outside her door, “I wish this could end. This is taking my freedom away.” She didn’t comment on whether she thought police had the right man.