A jury found Pedro Hernandez guilty of murdering 6-year-old Etan Patz. A long-awaited verdict in a case that shook the country for decades and changed the way parents watched their children. Etan disappeared on May 25, 1979, as he walked to a school bus stop.
The disappearance of Etan Patz shook the nation and became the first missing child to appear on milk cartons, “missing” posters, newspapers and television newscasts. Prosecutors alleged that Hernandez choked the boy to death in his store and then put his body in a plastic garbage bag that he concealed inside a cardboard box.
The guilty verdict against Pedro Hernandez, 56, in connection with a murder that sparked an era of heightened awareness of crimes against children, marks the end of an agonizing wait of nearly 40 years for Etan’s parents.
After nine days of deliberations, a jury found Hernandez guilty and now he faces was convicted after the jury deliberated for only nine days and now faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison during his sentencing hearing later this month. Hernandez’s previous trial ended in a hung jury, when a single juror could not support a guilty verdict.
On the earlier jury, the lone holdout against conviction cited the mental health issue as a major reason for his stance. This time, the jury concluded Hernandez had a psychiatric disorder but hadn’t imagined killing the boy. Pedro Hernandez showed no emotion. Hernandez is planning on appealing the verdict. Hernandez confessed to police after a 7½ hour interrogation, but his lawyers said he made up his account of the crime due to his severe mental illness.
The investigation that took a decade to solve, took investigators around the world, including Israel. The Patz family still has no answers to what really happened to their child. Etan’s remains were never found, and prosecutors had no scientific evidence from crime scenes to corroborate their arguments. Hernandez became a prime suspect after his brother-in-law called detectives saying that he could be responsible.