Did they find Etan Patz’s killer?

posted at 6:31 pm on May 26, 2012 by Jazz Shaw

This is a story which, as a New Yorker, has bothered me for a very long time. Thirty-three years ago, six year old Etan Patz left his home for school and never came back. He would go on to become the first child featured on a milk carton as having gone missing. Now, however, police think they have a break in the case.

A man in custody in Manhattan has confessed to strangling Etan Patz, the 6-year-old boy who vanished in SoHo on his way to school in 1979, wrapping his body in a bag and putting it in a box, a law enforcement official said on Thursday.

The man, Pedro Hernandez, told investigators that he left the box at a location in Manhattan, but when he returned several days later the box was no longer there, the official said. Investigators recently took Mr. Hernandez to that location. A second official also said that Mr. Hernandez told the authorities he had strangled the boy and discarded his body.

While it would be good for the family to finally have some closure on this, I worry that this may be yet another case of some nut-job trying to grab some attention by confessing to a crime. Doug Mataconis echos a similar concern.

The possibility remains, of course, that Hernandez is another John Mark Karr. Karr, you may recall, confessed in 2006 to murdering Jon Benet Ramsey and was the subject of a short, albeit intense, period of media coverage in a case that had already generated years of attention. It turned out that Karr was lying, though, something which authorities were able to determine rather quickly when his story simply didn’t match up to the known facts in the case. Hernandez could be doing the same thing, and police will no doubt be seeking to find some forensic evidence to back up his story, but he does appear to be someone who had connections to the neighborhood this apparent abduction took place in at the time it occurred. False confessions, though, do happen, so it would be foolish to say that this case is over just yet.

The police must have found some credibility in the story, however, since they’ve placed the suspect under arrest. I think the biggest disappointment for me in such a story is the fact that any fair criminal justice system has to rely on solid evidence for a conviction. And no matter our feelings in the matter, technology doesn’t lend itself to providing such iron clad proof in a case which went cold back when I was first serving in the military. (Yes… I’m that old.)

I want Etan’s killer found, even after all these years. But I also don’t want him/her to go free at the price of some deranged idiot going down for the crime because they’re several french fries short of a Happy Meal. This is one of those cases where the media and the courts may never be able to provide us with any satisfactory resolution.


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Could also be a desperate man trying to make his last buck, or save a family taken hostage. Police does love easy busts.

Archivarix on May 26, 2012 at 6:36 PM

The Patz’s are just down the block from me. I hope they at least will get some peace, although tragically the body will in all likelihood never be recovered.

Just so horribly sad.

Rixon on May 26, 2012 at 6:38 PM

I would hate to think that the NYPD and Bloomdumbkopfberg are Nifoning/Trayvoning this case just to get a headline and close the thing out.

Rixon on May 26, 2012 at 6:41 PM

DNA at the site?
L

letget on May 26, 2012 at 6:41 PM

I’m doubtful about the box. Would someone just pick up a box from the street or where ever without looking inside it? Would someone who found a child’s body (or anyone’s body, for that matter) inside a box not call the police? Is there any forensic evidence whatsoever locked away in an evidence room somewhere in NYC that could possibly connect Hernandez to the crime? Witness statements? Anything?

Unsolved child disappearances are very distressing, and not just to the parents — although they suffer the worst. Other parents suffer, too, wondering if their child will disappear. We had a killer of pre-teen boys in Omaha 25 or so years back. Virtually every kid in Omaha was in lock down after the second boy was killed. Parents were terrified that their preteen boy was next.

I hope Hernandez is the real killer. But I’m afraid he probably isn’t.

catsandbooks on May 26, 2012 at 6:49 PM

catsandbooks on May 26, 2012 at 6:49 PM

I’m right there with ya. I can’t imagine anyone picking up a random box and NOT looking inside….it makes no sense.

I pray Etan’s parents get some closure, but I doubt they will without their son’s body.

And if this is the scumbag that killed Etan, I pray that the scumbag that took Jacob Wetterling gets a similar attack of conscience.

LL

Lady Logician on May 26, 2012 at 7:04 PM

The man, Pedro Hernandez, told investigators that he left the box at a location in Manhattan, but when he returned several days later the box was no longer there, the official said.

That’s crazy.

Also, wasn’t someone else already found civilly responsible for the death? What is that, an “oops”?

Paul-Cincy on May 26, 2012 at 7:06 PM

A man in custody in Manhattan has confessed to strangling Etan Patz

Great police work!!///

Guess they’ve been too busy hassling law-abiding citizens, unionizing, bargaining against taxpayers, and working to take away our 2nd Amendment rights to catch the guy.

mankai on May 26, 2012 at 7:07 PM

mankai on May 26, 2012 at 7:07 PM

NYPD’s cops by and large are great. It’s the brass and the politicians that should be the target of your ire.

Rixon on May 26, 2012 at 7:18 PM

I thought I hard heard that Hernandez had not only “discarded” the body, but “threw it away”.

If that’s the case, whether it was directly placed in/among a pile of trash by Hernandez or wherever he left it someone thought it was trash and thus threw it away, the body will probably never be found. It’s either in the Atlantic or somewhere in a Staten Island landfill…

It’s also possible it was incinerated, either at the apartment complex – if there was one – or wherever Hernandez supposedly left the boxed/covered body.

As for DNA evidence? 33 years later, I cannot imagine there really being any left to be found unless Hernandez kept an article of clothing or something similar from Etan.

Sad and chilling regardless.

My wife says I’m overprotective. I tell her I cannot afford not to be. I don’t care how paranoid that makes me seem.

Logus on May 26, 2012 at 7:25 PM

Could also be a desperate man trying to make his last buck, or save a family taken hostage. Police does love easy busts.

Archivarix on May 26, 2012 at 6:36 PM

I’m not quite following you here. Who might be holding his family hostage?

a capella on May 26, 2012 at 7:25 PM

I want Etan’s killer found, even after all these years. But I also don’t want him/her to go free at the price of some deranged idiot going down for the crime because they’re several french fries short of a Happy Meal.

Or a prosecutor looking for any easy score.

davidk on May 26, 2012 at 7:26 PM

Unfortunately there are weirdos who get a kick out of confessing to crimes they didn’t commit. Before NYC police take an undeserved victory lap=let’s wait for some corroborative evidence.

MaiDee on May 26, 2012 at 7:35 PM

If they arrested him the DA feels confident about their case. Most likely the suspect divulged something that only the killer could know, otherwise I doubt the department would have let it go this far and risk even more disappointment by needlessly inflating the hopes of a nation. Maybe I’m just wishful thinking but I hope this is the guy.

stout77 on May 26, 2012 at 7:41 PM

NYPD’s cops by and large are great. It’s the brass and the politicians that should be the target of your ire.

Rixon on May 26, 2012 at 7:18 PM

Copy that. The average beat cop is your friend, but their higher-ups are much less so and the pols are even worse.

MelonCollie on May 26, 2012 at 7:45 PM

Or a prosecutor looking for any easy score.

davidk on May 26, 2012 at 7:26 PM

After 33 years?

Get a grip.

Ugly on May 26, 2012 at 9:13 PM

NYPD’s cops by and large are great. It’s the brass and the politicians that should be the target of your ire.

Rixon on May 26, 2012 at 7:18 PM

Yup. You nailed it. Not for nothing are they known as NY’s finest. I’ve had an almost 50 yr relationship with them. Even criminals respected them.

katy the mean old lady on May 26, 2012 at 9:23 PM

He would go on to become the first child featured on a milk carton as having gone missing.

Jazz, I’m not trying to be a grammar Nazi here but HIS CASE would go on to be the first featured on a milk carton. The way you wrote that thought, it is almost as if this was a personal accomplishment. Just sayin’

Happy Nomad on May 26, 2012 at 9:38 PM

Unfortunately there are weirdos who get a kick out of confessing to crimes they didn’t commit…let’s wait for some corroborative evidence.

MaiDee on May 26, 2012 at 7:35 PM

Amen. John Mark Karr (now Alexis Reich) was the first thing that popped into my head when I heard about this confession.

JimLennon on May 26, 2012 at 9:44 PM

(Yes… I’m that old.)

no worries Jazz, love your posts no matter what, always enjoy reading your stuff. you, AP, and Ed are the HA trifecta. ;)

maineconservative on May 26, 2012 at 10:19 PM

And if they convict the guy, so what?

Dr. ZhivBlago on May 26, 2012 at 11:39 PM

Hopefully they have more evidence than just this guy saying he did it. He could just be making all of this up.

SoulGlo on May 27, 2012 at 3:23 AM

If this guy does turn out to be the killer, at least he says he did not sexually molest the child before killing him, and there have been no reports that the suspect has any prior history of pedophilia. For years, the Patz parents have been convinced that Etan was taken by a pedophile who’s currently in prison. If there is some way to corroborate the current suspect’s confession, at least the parents may be able to find some comfort in knowing their little boy wasn’t held somewhere and tortured or raped before being killed.

However it turns out, I wish the Patz family peace. Having to wonder about Etan’s fate for so many years must have been its own kind of torture.

AZCoyote on May 27, 2012 at 9:32 AM

If they arrested him the DA feels confident about their case. Most likely the suspect divulged something that only the killer could know, otherwise I doubt the department would have let it go this far and risk even more disappointment by needlessly inflating the hopes of a nation.

Yeah, that’s what I thought when they charged Dominique Strauss Kahn.

Ann NY on May 27, 2012 at 9:44 AM