It's been 33 years since 6-year-old boy Etan Patz disappeared, and although he was declared legally dead in 2001, the mystery of what happened to him is still haunting the nation. That's likely because a former bodega stock clerk named Pedro Hernández has confessed to and been charged with Patz's murder, but so many questions about the incident remain.
Now 51, Hernández was 18 years old, working at a small grocery store in the New York neighborhood of SoHo, when Patz walked by on his way to his school bus stop. Hernández allegedly told police that he used a soda to lure the boy down to the basement, then strangled him, bagging and discarding the boy's body next to a pile of trash. So sick and twisted and all kinds of heartbreaking. And yet, almost making matters worse is that we still don't know why?
Hernández says he did not molest Etan before killing him, but he won't elaborate on much of anything else. A source told the New York Daily News:
He was repeatedly asked why he did it, and he couldn't give us an answer. He said he had no idea why he did this.
What we do know so far: He's originally from Puerto Rico, is married, and has a college-age daughter. Shortly after Etan's death, he moved to Maple Shade, New Jersey, to live closer to relatives. And according to neighbors, Hernández kept mostly to himself. He has no criminal record, but there are several accounts of incriminating remarks Hernández made to others. For instance, he told a relative and others, as far back as 1981, that he had "done something bad" and killed an unnamed child in NYC. And he has also given a detailed, signed confession.
Currently, the confessed killer is on suicide watch at Bellevue Hospital and told authorities that he is off his psychiatric medication.
And yet, with all of this info now at authorities' fingertips, it seems like it may still be difficult to convict Hernández without physical evidence and a clear motive. Although, if I had to guess, it sounds like this might have just been a case of a mentally unstable man doing something purely evil, without much logic or reason behind it at all. And maybe his confession was triggered only by the fact that he couldn't live with the guilt anymore? Heart-wrenching and mind-boggling, of course, but given what we know -- a distinct possibility.
Here are more details from local NYC coverage of the story ...
Do you think Hernández did it? If so, why, and why confess now?