Six months after he was arrested in connection with the 1979 murder of 6-year-old Etan Patz, accused killer Pedro Hernandez has been indicted on charges of kidnapping and murder. Hernandez confessed to the crime last May, telling authorities he lured Patz into a bodega basement, choked him, and then threw his body out with the trash.
Now a Grand Jury has decided that there's enough evidence to move forward with the case, so maybe someday poor Etan's parents will get a small measure of justice.
But what's even more disturbing than the kidnapping and murder of a 6-year-old boy -- on his very first trip to school alone -- is that this man had been living a quiet life in a New Jersey town for 33 years despite being seriously mentally ill -- and possibly a killer.
If there's enough evidence to indict him, then it's good that the case can move forward. But the defense his lawyer has presented is positively terrifying, especially for parents.
More from The Stir: Confession in Etan Patz Kidnapping Could Finally Crack Decades Old Tragedy
Although Hernandez has confessed to the crime, his lawyer Harvey Fishbein says he cannot be taken at his word. Fishbein released a statement saying Hernandez has "in the past, been repeatedly diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia, and who has, over the last six months, been found to suffer from Schizotypal personality disorder."
According to Fishbein, Hernandez also suffers from auditory and visual hallucinations. "Partly as a result of that disorder, my client has an IQ in the borderline-to-mild mental retardation range," he said.
While I am not by any means claiming that people who suffer from mental illnesses are all criminals who need to be kept out of society, it's scary that someone who is suffering from hallucinations, who has been diagnosed with a condition as serious as schizophrenia, and who has confessed to murdering a small boy, has been hiding in plain sight for decades.
And it's hard to know how to feel about the indictment, if Hernandez is as ill as his attorney claims. Can the confession of a man who hallucinates actually be valid? How can Etan's parents ever actually get peace after this tragedy if this is the case?
Whether Hernandez is found guilty or not, it raises questions about mental health care and what we can do to help people so that crimes like this don't happen.
Do you believe Pedro Hernandez's confession should be considered in trial if he's mentally ill?
Image via NYPD