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Entries in Pedro Hernandez (12)

Thursday
Nov152012

Etan Patz Case: Why the DA Prosecuted Pedro Hernandez

EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/GettyImages(NEW YORK) -- Towards the end of Pedro Hernandez' taped confession to kidnapping and killing six-year-old Etan Patz he can be seen kneeling and praying with the detectives who questioned him, ABC News has learned. At that moment, according to sources who have seen the video, there is the sense that everyone in the room has tears in their eyes. Certainly Hernandez appears to.

Is it textbook police work? Maybe not. Nor are the hugs exchanged by suspect and investigators. But is it a powerful, moving and, most importantly, convincing confession?

The office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance clearly thinks so.

So do multiple persons familiar with the case interviewed by ABC News.

Following a grand jury indictment of Hernandez on kidnapping and second degree murder charges, the Manhattan D.A. will now go forward with a prosecution that will by all accounts be a difficult one. No physical evidence found to date links the suspect to the crime, a number of sources say, there are no witnesses, and the crime -- committed in 1979 -- has long been blamed on another man, although that man was never indicted.

Still, in a system of justice that has winners and losers, in a town like New York where sometimes it seems that all that matters is the zero sum game, the decision of prosecutors to go forward speaks to the law as they understand it, sources explain. The prosecutors have seen the psychiatric reports on the suspect, they have viewed and reviewed the confession, they are certain Hernandez is not crazy.

And if he is not crazy and he has confessed to police -- and he has in the past to family members and others -- that he killed Patz, the default position is not that his is a false confession, according to sources familiar with the case, but that it's true. In other words, it's the statement of a guilty man who, at age 51, wants to get a long-ago crime off his chest.

However formidable the burden of proof may be, then, this is a case that appears to be moving forward.

In that sense, the Hernandez case is the polar opposite of another legal firestorm that fell to Manhattan D.A. Vance -- the arrest of the prominent French politician and IMF director Dominique Strauss-Kahn on charges of sexually assaulting a hotel maid. Depending on jury composition, the presentation of circumstantial evidence, and the skill of the prosecutors, it is conceivable that the case could have been made to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that "DSK" committed the crime.

But in the end, when they examined all the factors they had before them, the prosecutors felt that despite what appeared to be a large body of evidence, they themselves were not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that DSK was guilty. So in an atmosphere charged with issues of class and race and the suggestion of preferential treatment for a member of the global elite, Vance and his prosecutors dropped the case.

In the current case, which no one pretends will be anything but an uphill battle, they will move forward.

Their courtroom strategy will be to draw the jury back time and again to Hernandez' own words.

But Harvey Fishbein, the attorney for Hernandez, will have a large arsenal of weapons with which to fight back.

"This case will take time and it will take money," Fishbein said after his client's 90-second court appearance Thursday. And, he added, "This case will not tell the world what happened to Etan Patz."

Fishbein, sources say, is virtually certain to try to cast reasonable doubt on Hernandez's guilt by calling as a witness the former federal prosecutor who identified Jose Ramos, a convicted sex offender, as Patz's likely killer. In effect he will put the ex-prosecutor, Stuart GraBois, and his prime suspect on trial.

Ramos was released from a Pennsylvania prison earlier this month after serving 27 years for molestation in an unrelated case, but was immediately rearrested for allegedly lying about where he planned to live after his release.

Fishbein will elicit all he can about Ramos's past admissions that he was "90 percent certain" he had Patz in his apartment the day he went missing. He may bring forth the testimony of jailhouse snitches incarcerated with Ramos, and he will ask, repeatedly, "Where is the evidence?"

"My client will plead not guilty," Fishbein said. And without suggesting his client's confession was false, he simply noted that it is a documented fact that people confess to crimes they have not committed.

Should the case make it all the way to trial, a knowledgeable insider said, one would probably bet against the prosecution.

 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug082012

Etan Patz Investigation Returns to New York City Basement

EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/GettyImages(NEW YORK) -- Investigators returned to the lower Manhattan basement Wednesday where first-grader Etan Patz was allegedly murdered in 1979, the latest attempt to find clues in a case that has gripped and haunted New York City for 33 years.

Police removed several large bags of material from the site where Patz's accused killer told investigators earlier this year that he killed the boy.

Police in May arrested Pedro Hernandez, 51, a former bodega stock clerk who claimed he killed the blonde 6-year-old. He told cops he lured the boy into the store's basement, steps from the Patz family home, and strangled him.

The bodega is now an eyeglass shop on Prince Street in the tony Manhattan neighborhood of SoHo.

Wednesday's search was carried out because police gained access to part of the site previously inaccessible to them.

"We always intended to go back to the location," said Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne. "We did so at a time that was more convenient to the owner."

Browne said there were "no new developments" nor was there any new information that brought police back to the location.

Sources said investigators were looking for physical evidence that Patz had been there, including clothing, blood and DNA that may have survived more than three decades.

Patz disappeared on May 25, 1979, the first time he was allowed to walk from his home to his school's bus stop by himself. The case, one of the longest and most heart-wrenching in the city's history, was reopened this year following the election of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.

Hernandez is charged with second degree murder. He has told police he strangled Patz and stuffed his body in a plastic bag that was thrown into trash elsewhere in the neighborhood. The body was never found.

Hernandez had admitted to family members and friends as early as 1981 that he "done a bad thing and killed a child in New York." Someone went to police in April after cops searched the basement, but found nothing linking Patz to that room.

Currently, the case against Hernandez hangs on his confession. Sources said police hoped to find evidence that corroborates Hernandez's story.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun062012

Police Seize Items from NJ Home of Etan Patz Suspect, Pedro Hernandez

Joseph Devenney/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Detectives armed with a search warrant raided the suburban N.J. home of Etan Patz's suspected murderer and seized a computer hard drive and other evidence.

ABC News witnessed the search, which is part of a relentless scouring for evidence to corroborate the murder confession of Pedro Hernandez in the disappearance of Patz, a 6-year-old New York City boy who vanished on his way to catch a school bus in 1979.

The hard drive and other evidence, including items removed in briefcases and plastic bags, were loaded into a New York Police Department Crime Scene Unit van, and the van departed for New York.

Several investigators stayed on the scene.

In a quest for evidence to bolster Hernandez's confession, at least a dozen detectives and investigators from New York City and New Jersey, two marked Maple Shade police cars, three New York unmarked vehicles, and a crime scene van arrived at the home Wednesday afternoon around 4 p.m.

Two uniformed local officers entered the apartment with guns drawn after two women with keys opened the door for them, including Hernandez's wife, Rosemary Hernandez. They swept the apartment and then a New York team approached the door, explained the warrant to the two women and began the search.

A photographer entered the house along with the investigators.

The NYPD Computer Crime Scene squad joined in the search, which included a hunt for any hard drives, discs or other storage devices that could hold evidence.

"It is part of the continuing investigation," said NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne said of the overall search.

Browne would not comment further on the investigation, nor the scope of the warrant.

Asked multiple times by ABC News what the reason was for the search, officers at scene declined any comment.

Calls for comment to Hernandez's lawyer, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office and the Maple Shade Police were not immediately returned.

Coming about two weeks after the arrest of Hernandez, the search was indicative of the full-court press for evidence to bolster a problematic case that hinges to a large degree on Hernandez's confession and limited corroboration.

The Manhattan district attorney feels that there is already some corroboration of Hernandez's confession to NYPD Missing Persons detectives, including prior admissions to the murder by Hernandez to family members and others, according to sources involved in the investigation.

One of the difficulties prosecutors face in the 33-year-old case is a lack of physical evidence linking Hernandez to the disappearance of Patz, whose body has never been found. In his confession, Hernandez claimed to have strangled the boy and placed him in a box and left him on the street near the bodega where he worked in New York City's SoHo neighborhood.

Hernandez told investigators he had lured the boy with a soda as Patz was on the way to his school bus stop. It was the first time Patz had made the less-than-two-block walk from his parents' loft to the bus stop alone.

A court appearance for Hernandez is slated for June 22 in New York City pending the results of a psychiatric evaluation. At that time, the district attorney can move to place the case before a grand jury or buy additional time before proceeding.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun062012

Etan Patz Case: Police Search NJ Home of Suspect, Pedro Hernandez

Sketch Courtesy of Andrea Shepard(NEW YORK) -- New York City detectives with a search warrant and an NYPD Crime Scene Unit van went to the Maple Shade, N.J., home of Pedro Hernandez, the alleged killer of Etan Patz, and a search of the home was underway, ABC News has learned.

In a quest for evidence to bolster Hernandez's confession for the New York City 6-year-old's 1979 murder, at least a dozen detectives and investigators from New York City and New Jersey, two marked Maple Shade police cars, three New York unmarked vehicles, and a crime scene van arrived at the home Wednesday afternoon.

Two uniformed local officers entered the apartment with guns drawn after two women with keys opened the door for them, including Hernandez's wife, Rosemary Hernandez. They swept the apartment and then a New York team approached the door, explained the warrant to the two women and began the search.

A photographer entered the house along with the investigators, who arrived at the scene at about 4 p.m.

"It is part of the continuing investigation," said NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne.

Browne would not comment further on the investigation, nor the scope of the warrant.

Asked multiple times by ABC News what the reason was for the search, officers at scene declined any comment.

Calls for comment to Hernandez's lawyer, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office and the Maple Shade Police were not immediately returned.

Coming about two weeks after the arrest of Hernandez the search was indicative of the full-court press for evidence to bolster a problematic case that hinges to a large degree on Hernandez's confession and limited corroboration.

The Manhattan district attorney feels that there is already some corroboration of Hernandez's confession to NYPD Missing Persons detectives, including prior admissions to the murder by Hernandez to family members and others, according to sources involved in the investigation.

One of the difficulties prosecutors face in the 33-year-old case is a lack of physical evidence linking Hernandez to the disappearance of Patz, whose body has never been found. In his confession, Hernandez claimed to have strangled the boy and placed him in a box and left him on the street near the bodega where he worked in New York City's Soho neighborhood.

Hernandez told investigators he had lured the boy with a soda as Patz was on the way to his school bus stop. It was the first time the 6-year-old had made the less-than-two-block walk from his parents' loft to the bus stop alone.

A court appearance for Hernandez is slated for June 22 in New York City pending the results of a psychiatric evaluation. At that time, the district attorney can move to place the case before a grand jury or buy additional time before proceeding.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May302012

Etan Patz Suspect: Is Confession Real?

Sketch Courtesy of Andrea Shepard(NEW YORK) -- Since Pedro Hernandez's confession to the killing of Etan Patz last week, questions are beginning to rise regarding the man's mental health and whether he is telling the truth about what happened in lower Manhattan 33 years ago when he allegedly murdered the 6-year-old boy.

Despite his confession and the second-degree murder charges filed against him, police have offered no possible motive for the crime Hernandez allegedly committed as a teenager, leaving some skeptics wondering if he is admitting to something he didn't do.

As Hernandez's lawyer has said that he "has a history of hallucinations," a trio of forensic psychiatrists has spoken to ABC News about the considerations that come along with a confession from someone who has psychotic mental illness, Hernandez's mental state, and how it might impact the case against him.

"You have to rule out the possibility that he may be faking," said Dr. Harold J. Bursztajn, co-founder of the Program in Psychiatry and the Law at Harvard Medical School. "This may be a wish to get attention; it may even be an unconscious wish, a wish to feel self-important.  That's something which needs to be explored in psychological examination."

New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Hernandez, a 51-year-old New Jersey builder, had told relatives, friends and a church group as early as 1981 that he'd "done a bad thing and killed a child in New York."

While psychopaths generally show no remorse after they commit a violent crime, Hernandez reportedly broke down emotionally during his confession.  Unlike most child molesters, Hernandez has no criminal record.

Dr. John Thompson, who is a director at the Division of Forensic Neuropsychiatry at Tulane University, said that a psychiatric evaluation and testing compared with forensic and other data should help lead to a conclusion regarding the accuracy of his confession.  While he said that it is difficult to make conclusive statements about Hernandez's mental state given the limited information available, he noted that it is possible that psychological troubles could have led Hernandez to make up his story about what happened to Patz 33 years ago.

"Since one of the hallmark symptoms of schizophrenia is a delusion, or 'fixed false belief,' it is possible for such an individual to make a false confession," Thompson said.

Even if he was telling people about the murder, how did Hernandez provide such grisly details in his confession on how he choked Patz in the basement of a bodega and stored the body in the freezer before disposing of it in the garbage?

Dr. Park Dietz, president of Park Dietz & Associates, Inc. in Newport Beach, Calf., would not directly comment on the Patz case, but said that people with a history of psychosis may have a memory of events that is formed from other sources, such as news, gossip, dreams, fantasies and delusions.  Until such details are supported by evidence, their validity is anyone's guess.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May292012

Sister of Etan Patz Murder Suspect Says Police Ignored Her Pleas

Sketch Courtesy of Andrea Shepard(CAMDEN, N.J.) -- The sister of Etan Patz's confessed killer says New Jersey police ignored her pleas to investigate Pedro Hernandez, allowing the suspect in the boy's murder to walk free for 33 years.

Norma Hernandez says she told police in Camden, N.J., in the early 1980s that her brother had admitted to members of his church that he killed a boy in New York City in 1979.

"I went down to the police station and told them that my brother had killed and strangled a little boy," Norma Hernandez told ABC News.

She says she implored police to investigate but, "They never got back to me ... I thought I'd at least hear back from a detective but nothing."

If convicted, Norma Hernandez said, her brother should spend the rest of his life in jail.

"As a sister you want to have compassion, but as a human being I think anyone is capable of anything," she said.

Pedro Hernandez, 51, is a New Jersey resident, moving there after living in New York City in the 1970s where for a time as a teenager he worked as a bodega stock clerk. Last week he was charged with second degree murder in the 6-year-old's death following a sworn confession that he lured Patz into the bodega basement with the promise of a soda and proceeded to kill him 33 years ago.

Camden cops denied Norma Hernandez's claim that she asked that her brother be investigated some two decades ago.

"This is the first we are learning of Ms. Hernandez's comments," Camden Police Chief John Scott Thomson told ABC News. "Since this is an on-going homicide investigation, anything we do will be closely coordinated through the direction of the Camden County Prosecutor, Manhattan D.A., and the NYPD."

Hernandez was arrested last Thursday after a friend or family member recently contacted police and repeated his decades old church confession. Police said that person came forwards after the Patz case again made headlines, when authorities reopened the investigation last month by excavating a basement apartment steps from where Patz went missing.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Hernandez had told relatives and friends as early as 1981 that he'd "done a bad thing and killed a child in New York."

Hernandez was arraigned last Friday from a New York City hospital, where he was taken following his arrest and fears he might commit suicide.

His defense lawyer contends he is mentally ill and suffers from hallucinations. He did not enter a plea.

The search for Etan has been one of the largest, longest-lasting and most heart-wrenching hunts for a missing child in the country's recent history. His photo was among the first of a missing child to appear on a milk carton.

Stan Patz, Etan's father, reportedly spent Memorial Day on a bike ride through lower Manhattan, where he silently rode past 448 West Broadway, the address where Pedro Hernandez allegedly killed his son.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May292012

Etan Patz Suspect's Sister Reportedly Told Police He Confessed to Murder

Joseph Devenney/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The sister of Pedro Hernandez, the New Jersey man arrested on suspicion of killing 6-year-old Etan Patz 33 years ago, has reportedly said that she alerted police in the early 1980s that her brother had confessed to the crime to a church group.

Norma Hernandez, 53, said that she was informed by family members that her brother had confessed to abducting and killing Patz to a prayer group at St. Anthony of Padua, a Roman Catholic Church in Camden, N.J., according to The Wall Street Journal.  The suspect's sister said that other family members were present at the time of his alleged confession and that she informed Camden police after they told her about it.

It is still unclear what the Camden police did with the information that she said she gave them.  The Camden County Prosecutor's Office told the Wall Street Journal Monday that the office wouldn't discuss the case.

"I just feel angry that people who heard the confession didn't do anything," Norma Hernandez told the newspaper.

She added that her brother had returned from New York City after the killing, and would frequently look out the window.

"He was afraid or something," she said.

Pedro Hernandez was arrested Thursday after telling authorities that he'd lured Patz to his death with the promise of soda in lower Manhattan on May 25, 1979.  He reportedly said that he'd strangled Patz and then stuffed the boy's body into a plastic garbage bag, carried it to another location and then dumped it in the trash.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
May282012

Etan Patz Suspect Reportedly Kept Boy's Body in Store Freezer 

(Courtesy Inside Edition)(NEW YORK) -- Pedro Hernandez, the former store clerk charged in the 1979 death of 6-year-old Etan Patz after he confessed to the alleged murder, reportedly kept the boy's body in a walk-in refrigerator in the store's basement before discarding it.

Hernandez was arrested Thursday after telling authorities that he'd lured the child to his death with the promise of soda.

He reportedly said that he'd strangled Etan and then stuffed the boy's body into a plastic garbage bag, carried it to another location and then dumped it in the trash.

Citing his confession to police, the New York Post reported Monday that Hernandez said he'd kept the boy's body in the refrigerator until he could dispose of the corpse.

Law enforcement sources said the police department is attempting to confirm the details provided by Hernandez and whether to search for remains, the Post said.

Also, The New York Times reported this weekend that Hernandez had confessed during a prayer meeting in the early 1980s to killing a boy.

The former leader of the prayer group, which was held in a Roman Catholic church in Camden, N.J., told the Times that Hernandez said in front of the meeting's attendees that he had strangled a boy, the paper reported Sunday.

"He confessed to the group," said Tomas Rivera, who often led the meetings at St. Anthony of Padua and was present during the admission. Rivera told the Times he did not tell the police at the time "because he did not confess to me."

Rivera, who said he'd been questioned by New York police last week, said Hernandez had also said he left the body in a trash bin.

The prayer-circle confession was confirmed to the Times by Hernandez's sister, Norma Hernandez, who said that although she'd never talked to Pedro Hernandez about the case, his comments to the prayer group were known to the family. She did not say whether her brother had revealed the identity of the boy.

In a Facebook post on its page, St. Anthony of Padua responded to The Times story:

"At the time the confession in the prayer group would have taken place, the friars had not yet even arrived in Camden. But some members of the prayer group back then are still active in the parish. Please keep the Patz family and the Hernandez family in your prayers," the message said.

Hernandez, now 51, was a clerk at a corner store in the New York City neighborhood where Etan disappeared 33 years ago. Etan had been allowed for the first time to walk to the school bus stop alone May 25, 1979.

Hernandez had worked at the store for nearly a month. He left after Etan's disappearance, according to officials. Etan's body has not been found.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Hernandez had told relatives and friends as early as 1981 that he'd "done a bad thing and killed a child in New York."

Hernandez was formally charged with second-degree murder. He remains at a New York City hospital because authorities fear he might attempt to kill himself. His lawyer said no plea had been entered pending a psychiatric evaluation.

The search for Etan has been one of the largest, longest-lasting and most heart wrenching hunts for a missing child in the country's recent history. His photo was among the first of a missing child to appear on a milk carton.

New York City police hailed Hernandez's arrest, saying that it closed a case that had haunted the city for three decades.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Saturday
May262012

Pedro Hernandez Charged in Killing of Etan Patz

Photodisc/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Prosecutors are trying to figure out how they will prosecute the man who confessed to killing six-year old Etan Patz 33 years ago.

Pedro Hernandez, 51, was formally charged in court on Friday after tearfully confessing to police that he killed Etan Patz after luring him away from a bus stop.

Many are questioning whether this confession is authentic since it has been decades since the disappearance occured. ABC News Consultant and former FBI Special Agent, Brad Garret, explained why Hernandez may have come forward now.

"When the District Attorney's office, with the help of the FBI, started actively looking again around locations close to Etan's house and in a basement that they excavated recently looking for human remains, which they didn't find, it brought the case back into the public again.  That sometimes can have an effect, both on offenders and the people around them that may have heard something."

Police started investigating Hernandez after receiving a tip from Jose Lopez, Hernandez’s brother-in-law. According to Lopez, Hernandez told family members that he had “done a bad thing” and “had killed a child in New York.”

ABC Legal Analyst Dan Abrams explained what prosecutors will probably do next, “after this kind of confession, the authorities say a three and a hour tearful confession, does he end up pleading guilty and just say you know what, I want to put this behind me. If he does not, there could be some challenges. The key will be the testimony of relatives, the key will be any objective facts that they have, any corroborating evidence, but that confession is going to be absolutely crucial.”

Hernandez will enter a plea after a pysch evaluation, and has been put on suicide watch.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Saturday
May262012

Etan Patz Case: Suspect Pedro Hernandez Charged with Murder

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The former store clerk who confessed to the 1979 killing of Etan Patz was formally charged Friday with second degree murder of the little boy exactly 33 years to the day after he disappeared while on his way to school.

Pedro Hernandez, who despite a more than three decades-long investigation was never the target of police until this week, was arrested Wednesday at his home in New Jersey and promptly confessed to kidnapping and killing Patz.

New York City police hailed his arrest Thursday night, perhaps closing a case that has haunted New York for three decades. At 5:30 a.m. Friday morning, Hernandez was taken under guard to Bellevue Hospital where he was placed on suicide watch.

In a terse criminal complaint filed against Hernandez, prosecutors charge him with strangling Patz and placing him in a plastic bag, "thereby causing his death."

Hernandez, 51, has been in police custody since Wednesday and may not have been taking his prescribed medication and appeared suicidal before he was taken to the hospital, criminal justice sources said.

Hernandez's arraignment coincides with the May 25 anniversary of Patz's disappearance and National Missing Persons Day, a holiday that spotlights missing children chosen in honor of Patz.

The search for Patz was one of the largest, longest-lasting and most heart-wrenching hunts for a missing child in the country's recent history. His photo was among the first of a missing child to appear on a milk carton.

Hernandez confessed to police that as a 19-year-old bodega stock clerk he lured the boy into his shop's basement with the promise of a soda. There, Hernandez told police, he strangled Patz and stuffed his body in a plastic bag that was thrown into trash elsewhere in the neighborhood. The body was never found.

Hernandez had admitted to family members and friends as early as 1981 that he "done a bad thing and killed a child in New York."

Investigators reopened the long-dormant case in 2010 an in April excavated a basement apartment steps away from Patz's home and the bodega where Hernandez says he killed the boy.

The new focus on the case led one of Hernadez's family members or a friend to alert police that they suspected Hernandez's involvement.

When confronted, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Hernandez quickly confessed, even expressing "remorse" and "relief."

Hernandez was taken into custody at his home in Maple Shade, N.J., on Wednesday morning where he lives with his wife and daughter. The apartment is rented by his wife, Rosemary Hernandez, who let her husband move in after he told her that he was dying of cancer.

"We never had a problem with him," Hernandez's brother-in-law, Jose Lopez, told KYW, a CBS station in Philadelphia. "There was never a problem. He was a normal person. Never gave any sign that he did something like that."

Police have named other suspects in the past, but none had ever been arrested or charged.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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