Pedro Hernandez arrived in the United States from Puerto Rico in the early 1970s. In 1979, he was working as a stock boy at a bodega in New York City, in the neighborhood where 6-year-old Etan Patz mysteriously disappeared. Hernandez reportedly told his relatives he had killed the boy, and in 2012 he formally confessed to the crime. A 2015 trial ended with a hung jury, due to Hernandez's unstable mental condition, but in February 2017 he was convicted of kidnapping and murder.
Life and Crime
Pedro Hernandez ended a more-than-30-year-old mystery when he confessed to the 1979 murder of 6-year-old Etan Patz. Patz had disappeared on his way to his bus stop in New York City's SoHo neighborhood on May 25, 1979, and the ensuing search for him captured the attention of the nation.
Born in Puerto Rico, Hernandez comes from a large family. Some reports indicate that he is one of 11 children. His family came to the United States in the early 1970s. By 1979, Hernandez was working in New York City, as a stock boy in a bodega. He later told police that he saw 6-year-old Etan Patz on his way to his bus stop on the morning of May 25, 1979, and offered the boy a soda. Patz reportedly went with Hernandez into the store's basement. It was there that Hernandez allegedly strangled Patz and then put his body into a garbage bag. Hernandez said he threw the body out in a trash bin.
When Patz's parents reported that their son was missing, police conducted an extensive search for Etan, but there was no trace of him. Some employees at the bodega where Hernandez worked were interviewed in connection with the case, but the police didn't speak with Hernandez. Shortly after Patz's death, Hernandez moved to New Jersey.
Confession and Arrest
As early as 1981, Hernandez reportedly began talking about how he had murdered a child. This story became a repeated rumor within his family for years, but no one knew exactly what he was talking about. According to a report in The New York Times, Hernandez's father believed that his son had killed a child in a hit-and-run incident.
Hernandez married Daisy Rivera in 1983, but their union was short-lived. Five years later, Hernandez wed Rosemary Vargus. The couple has one daughter, Becky. Hernandez suffered an injury in 1993, and went on disability. Soon after, he and second wife Rosemary had financial troubles, declaring bankruptcy in 1999.
Hernandez's past caught up with him in 2012. Investigators received a tip about Hernandez, and not long after, he confessed to killing Etan Patz. When police asked why he killed the boy, he said, "I don't know," according to The New York Times. Some of his family members said they doubt his guilt, as Hernandez has a history of mental illness.
Hernandez was charged with second-degree murder, and the authorities continued to search corroborating evidence to support his confession. A number of items, including a computer hard drive, were seized during a search of Hernandez's Maple Shade, New Jersey home. He was deemed fit to stand trial, but in May 2015 the judge declared a mistrial after a jury deadlocked on a verdict.
In October 2016, Hernandez was brought to trial a second time. In February 2017, following three months of testimony and nine days of deliberations, he was found guilty of kidnapping and second-degree felony murder of Etan Patz. He was scheduled to be sentenced at the end of February.
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