NEW YORK (PIX11)—A retired NYPD investigator with connections to the Etan Patz case told PIX 11 Friday the confessed killer who emerged 'out of the blue' after 33 years may be the real deal. The ex-cop, who didn't want to be identified, said the defendant, 51 year old Pedro Hernandez, was in the right spot to have taken advantage of the 6 year old boy from SoHo, who was walking to a school bus stop alone, for the first time, on May 25, 1979. Hernandez was working as a stock clerk in a bodega at Prince Street and West Broadway, where the bus stop was located.
"It does make sense in some ways," the retired investigator told PIX 11 Friday. "Here's this guy who worked across the street from the school bus."
In a three and a half hour videotaped confession, Hernandez said he lured Etan Patz from the bus stop, with the promise of a free can of soda. He said he strangled the child in the basement of the bodega and later threw the boy's body out with the trash at a different location.
"Sometimes, people will admit to the homicide," the investigator told PIX 11, "but they don't want to admit to something of a sexual nature."
Pedro Hernandez stopped living at his family's apartment in SoHo about a month after Etan Patz vanished. As more than 300,000 "Missing Child" flyers were being handed out--and Etan's disappearance launched a huge awareness campaign about the plight of children who vanished around the country--Hernandez was beginning a new life in south Jersey. A relative later recalled Hernandez saying in the early 80's he had once done something "bad" .that he had killed a child in New York. But the information was never passed on.
That all changed last month, after the FBI dug up a cement, basement floor in a building about one block from the Patz family home. A different "person of interest" emerged at that time, but absolutely no evidence turned up. Yet about that time, someone tipped off the NYPD that a New Jersey man with a college-age child--Pedro Hernandez--may be someone to look at.
Hernandez, who apparently was taking medication for mental illness, was brought in for questioning by the Manhattan District Attorney on Wednesday, taken into custody by NYPD authorities at his home in Maple Shade, New Jersey. By Thursday evening, Hernandez was formally charged with Etan Patz' murder--and later placed on 'suicide watch' at Bellevue Hospital.
He did not give a motive, but the retired investigator said Hernandez may have been hiding his true intentions, when he didn't give a reason for killing the boy.
For three decades, law enforcement believed another man, Jose Antonio Ramos--now 68--was the person who killed Etan. He's a convicted pedophile who was dating Etan's babysitter in 1979. 12 years ago--in June 2000--detectives dismantled a boiler in the basement of a building where Ramos used to live .and found nothing.
Ramos has been serving time in a federal prison in Pennsylvania for molesting two, other boys. He's expected to be released in November. He has always denied killing Etan, although he did admit taking another boy named "Jimmy" to his apartment on May 25, 1979. When the child rebuffed his sexual advances, Ramos said he put the boy safely on a subway train.
Etan Patz that day never made it onto the school bus.