NEW YORK (KRON)- Pedro Hernandez has been found guilty of the felony murder and kidnapping of Etan Patz.
Hernandez a former store clerk was convicted Tuesday of murder in one of the nation’s most haunting missing-child cases, the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz on the way to his school bus stop 38 years ago.
The jury deliberated over nine days before finding Hernandez, 56, guilty of murder during a kidnapping, the prominent case that shaped both parenting and law enforcement practices in the United States.
A jury in 2015 had deadlocked following 18 days of deliberation, leading to a retrial that lasted more than three months. Hernandez, 56, who worked at a convenience store in Etans neighborhood confessed to the murder but his lawyers said his admissions were due to a mental illness.This time, the jury deliberated over nine days before finding Hernandez guilty.
“The Patz family has waited a long time, but we’ve finally found some measure of justice for our wonderful little boy, Etan,” his father, Stanley Patz, said afterward, choking up. “I’m really grateful that this jury finally came back with which I have known for a long time — that this man, Pedro Hernandez, is guilty of doing something really terrible so many years ago.”
Etan became one of the first missing children ever pictured on milk cartons, and the anniversary of his disappearance has been designated National Missing Children’s Day. His parents lent their voices to a campaign to make missing children a national cause, and it fueled laws that established a national hotline and made it easier for law enforcement agencies to share information about vanished youngsters.
“It’s a cautionary tale, a defining moment, a loss of innocence,” Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi said in an opening statement. “It is Etan who will forever symbolize the loss of that innocence.”
After police finally came to Hernandez’ Maple Shade, New Jersey, door, he confessed, saying he’d offered Etan a soda to get him into the store basement, choked him, put him — still alive — in a box and left it with a pile of curbside trash.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance also released a statement on Tuesday, saying: ‘The disappearance of Etan Patz haunted families in New York and across the country for nearly four decades.
‘Etan’s legacy will endure through his family’s long history of advocacy on behalf of missing children. However, it is my hope that today’s verdict provides the Patz family with the closure they so desperately deserve.’