There's an old saying in law enforcement. "If you see something, say something." So what happens when you hear something? A confession, perhaps, from Pedro Hernandez, a man who says he kidnapped and killed a little boy named Etan Patz, the 6-year-old whose name is famous as the first "boy on the milk carton"? What do you do?
Well, if you were a member of a prayer group at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church in Camden, NJ in the early 1980s, apparently you did nothing. No. Really! Members of the group told The New York Times this weekend that they didn't feel it was "their place" to pass on a confession they allegedly heard from Hernandez during a group meeting decades ago.
Ahem. I wanted to put this nicely ... and then I realized that these people didn't care about nice when they let a man they thought might be a deranged killer walk right out of their church. So instead I'll be frank.
Every single prayer group member who listened to Pedro Hernandez' confession should be ashamed of themselves. And then some. Because not saying something wasn't just selfish, it was dangerous.
Just think: if the folks from St. Anthony's had spoken up, and Hernandez really was the guy (remember, he's confessed but has not yet been convicted), they would have gotten a murderer off the streets, thereby protecting all innocent kids he could ever encounter in his day to day ... kids like their nephews, their nieces, their grandkids. And they would have given Etan Patz' parents some kind of answer, instead of leaving them to wonder for decades what had happened to their child.
When Hernandez spoke to them, he could have been lying. It's true.
If they'd turned him in, what is the worst that could happen? A man who confessed to abducting and strangling a well-known missing child in the stockroom of a lower Manhattan bodega would be forced to talk to police about it? If he didn't do it, he could have cleared that up. But if he did ... let's just say that's not a risk I would have taken just because I wanted to stay in "my place."
What would you have done in the shoes of those prayer group members?