NEW YORK (WPIX)—Pedro Hernandez was arraigned by closed-circuit television from Bellevue Hospital tonight for the 2nd degree murder of Etan Patz, on exactly the 33 year anniversary of the six-year-old's disappearance.
Etan's father, Stanley Patz, returned to his Soho home, without saying a word as Hernandez was unexpectedly moved to Bellevue Hospital to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. The sole piece of evidence against Hernandez is his confession. There is no motive as of yet, and no physical evidence as Etan's body is not expected to be recovered.
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Hernandez sat in an orange jumpsuit with his arms behind his back, motionless during his arraignment. Not saying a word, his lawyer spoke of a long psychiatric history of schizophrenia and bipolar issues. Including hallucinations visual and auditory.
Remanded without bail for the psychiatric evaluation, he will return to court on June 25.
The only evidence against Hernandez, is Hernandez. On May 25, 1979, the then-19-year-old was working at a bodega just blocks from the Patz home. Just two years after Etan disappeared, Hernandez began confessing to a friend "I did a bad thing, I killed a child in New York."
Over the decades he would confide again to other family and friends. Never naming the 6-year-old as the child - at least one of the individuals he told did not connect the dots.
Until last month, as PIX11 was the first to report of a dig inside the basement of 113 Prince Street for Etan's body. The searched turned up empty-handed, it seemed. But the publicity generated by the search made national headlines and reached the individual who heard Hernandez' confession. A call was made to the NYPD's missing persons squad and within weeks, the now 51-year-old Hernandez made a 3 and a half hour videotaped and written confession.
NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly recounted the substance of the confession saying, "Hernandez described to the detectives how he lured young Etan from the school bus stop at West Broadway and Prince Street with the promise of a soda. He then led him into the basement of the bodega, choked him there, and disposed of the body by putting it into a plastic bag, and placing it into the trash."
Motive is still a mystery as evidence in the case is thin and entirely reliant on Hernandez' confession. The NYPD says his confessions in the past and the specificity within them establishes his credibility. If true, Etan's body, in a trash bag a block and a half away may have been disposed of by a sanitation truck without realizing what was inside. And, if true, his body is not expected to be recovered.
Hernandez was only employed as a store clerk at the bodega for about a month and left days after Etan's disappearance for reasons unknown at this time. His absence, intentional or accidental, produced a crucial result - he was never interviewed by police in 1979.
While other employees at the bodega were questioned by police, Hernandez would go unnoticed until NYPD detectives knocked on his Maple Shade, NJ door a couple of weeks ago. Moving to New Jersey after Etan's disappearance, he worked in construction before a back injury in 1993 put him on social assistance.
No criminal record, he is married and has a daughter in college.
The Patz family was updated on Wednesday night when Hernandez agreed to return to New York with detectives. And they were informed yet again Thursday night, that the man of Puerto Rican descent was being arrested for murdering their son.
Etan's father was "taken aback... surprised... overwhelmed" according to NYPD Lt. Chris Zimmerman, who brought Stanley Patz the news. Hernandez has no prior criminal record.
Stanley and Julie Patz have held onto their same landline number and remained in their SoHo home over the decades, clinging to the possibility their son might one day return.
Without any physical evidence or corroborating witnesses Hernandez' confession requires trusting the words of the very same man who would be capable of strangulating an adorable 6-year-old boy. It remains to be seen if the Patz' will lay their hopes to rest on the shoulders of such an individual.