Published: Wed, February 15, 2017
National | By Traci Kelley

Jury rules Pedro Hernandez is guilty in Etan Patz murder trial

- Pedro Hernandez, 56, was found guilty Tuesday in the kidnapping and murder of Etan Patz in 1979. "I'm really grateful that this jury finally came back with what I have known a long time, that this man, Pedro Hernandez, is guilty of doing something really bad so many years ago".

Etan's story has always been famous in New York City and nationwide: In 1979, on the first day his parents allowed him to walk to the bus stop by himself, he disappeared along the way.

Etan was last seen on a Friday in May 1979.

He was dating a woman who at some point had been hired to walk Etan home from school in 1979 and had a relationship with the Patz family. He had a Future Flight Captain cap on his head and a dollar in his pocket to buy a soda at a bodega on the way. He was one of the first children to appear on the side of a milk carton. His parents helped press for new laws that established a national hotline and made it easier for law enforcement agencies to share information about missing children.

For many years, investigators believed that another suspect, convicted pedophile Jose Ramos, was behind Patz's kidnapping. In addition to his confession, he also signed one of the "missing" posters, confirming for investigators that Etan was in fact the boy he attacked. Though they had no new evidence, Hernandez had allegedly "confessed" about strangling a boy to relatives and his church group.

Still, the Patz family - which focused for years on another suspect before Hernandez's 2012 arrest - may never know exactly what became of the boy. "Pedro Hernandez is an innocent man".

"The Patz family has waited a long time, but we have finally found some measure of justice", Stan Patz told reporters, speaking softly as he sat alongside prosecutors in the courtroom. "We believe that this is the individual responsible".

Hernandez has been in custody since 2012 when he confessed to police that he killed Etan in the basement of the convenience store before dumping his body out with the trash.

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For one juror, Hernandez's purported confession seemed suspicious.

The holdout? Forty-two-year-old Adam Sirois.

"When I choked him, I tried to let go but my body was shaking and jumping at the same time", he said.

For Sirois, Hernandez's mental health was a "huge" factor in his decision.

The prosecution put on a very similar case in the second trial but added five psychiatric witnesses to challenge Hernandez's claims of debilitating mental illness.

A psychiatrist testified that Hernandez's admission could have been a delusion, Newsday reported.

Defense lawyers and doctors portrayed Hernandez as man with psychological problems and intellectual limitations that not only made him imagine he'd killed Etan but made him susceptible to confessing falsely after more than six hours of questioning.

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