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New York City resident Etan Patz disappeared in 1979, when he was 6 years old. Nearly 33 years later, in May 2012, New Jersey resident Pedro Hernandez confessed to the murder.
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Born in New York City in 1972, Etan Patz was 6 years old when he disappeared in 1979, near West Broadway and Prince Street in New York City. More than 30 years after his disappearance, police reopened Patz's case, and a new suspect, New Jersey resident Pedro Hernandez, was charged with Patz's murder. In May of 2012, Hernandez confessed to the killing.
Born in New York City on October 9, 1972, Etan Patz grew up in Manhattan, in an apartment near the corner of Prince Street and West Broadway. Patz was nearing the end of his first year of kindergarten when tragedy struck: On May 25, 1979, around 8 a.m., while he was walking by himself for the first time to the school-bus stop located just two blocks away from his home, Patz disappeared. According to Patz's mother, she had been watching her son that morning—from the family's apartment window—until he crossed a street and was nearly 150 yards from his bus stop. It would be the last time that Patz's mother saw him alive.
Immediately after Patz's disappearance, Patz's father, a photographer, posted photos of his son throughout New York City, and police initiated a weeks-long search. Patz's case garnered national media attention. For several years, detectives focused on a convicted sex offender, Jose Ramos, as the prime suspect in the case. After years of waiting for answers, Patz's parents received a legal update to their son's case in 2001, when a New York judge declared Patz legally dead.
In May 2010, more than 30 years after Patz's disappearance, the New York City Police Department reopened the Etan Patz case. A suspect, New Jersey resident Pedro Hernandez, was charged with Patz's murder. Two years later, in May 2012—around the 33rd anniversary of Patz's disappearance—Hernandez confessed to killing Patz, and was indicted on second-degree murder charges.
Hernandez, a husband and father, was 18 years old and had been working as a store clerk at the time of Patz's death. Accordng to The New York Times, Hernandez told police that he had taken Patz into the basement of his store on the morning of May 25, 1979, after promising him a soda, and then strangled and killed him. According to police reports, Hernandez was not able to explain to police why he had killed Patz, but stated that his actions had not been sexually motivated.
Following the confession, several media outlets reported that, according to Hernandez's family members, Hernandez suffered from mental illness. Following Hernandez's confession, investigators conducted another search of the bodega basement and surrounding area, as well as Hernandez's home, but were unable to find Patz's remains. Hernandez told police that he had dumped Patz's body in a garbage bin.
Patz's story, along with several other missing children cases in the United States, spurred a nationwide movement in the early 1980s, in an effort to bring crimes against children to the forefront. Patz's photo was reportedly the first printed on a milk carton, as part of a missing child search. On the fourth anniversary of Patz's death in 1983, President Ronald Reagan designated May 25 as "National Missing Children's Day," to bring attention to the victimization of children. The Etan Patz case is regarded today as one of the most known missing child cases in the nation.
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