Etan Patz murder trial pushed back for psych exams

Pedro Hernandez (left) and a flier for Etan Patz (AP Photos)

February 20, 2014 3:40:58 AM PST
A New York murder trial for a suspect in one of the country's most prominent missing-child cases is being postponed for months as psychiatric exams and other preparations continue.

Pedro Hernandez had been tentatively set to go on trial in April in the case surrounding Etan Patz, but a judge said Wednesday he now anticipates the trial starting in September.

Six-year-old Etan disappeared while walking to his school bus stop in 1979. He was one of the first missing children to appear on a milk carton. The anniversary of his disappearance became National Missing Children's Day.

Hernandez was arrested in 2012 after police got a tip. The 53-year-old Maple Shade, N.J., resident gave authorities a confession, but his defense argues it was false and prompted by mental illness.

Hernandez's attorney says that his client began abusing coke in the 1980s, which led to psychiatric problems that culminated in a false confession.

Patz was one of the first vanished youths to be pictured on a milk carton, and the anniversary of his disappearance, May 25, is now National Missing Children's Day.

Police initially encountered Hernandez as a corner-store stock clerk in the area where Etan disappeared.

Hernandez has an IQ of 67, his medical records mention schizophrenia dating back years, and he's taken anti-psychotic medication for some time, his lawyer said in papers filed last month. He has also said Hernandez has had hallucinations and delusions.

After Hernandez's arrest, doctors diagnosed him with schizotypal personality disorder, an ailment characterized by "cognitive and perceptual distortions," his attorney wrote in a filing. A psychiatrist expert in determining the reliability of confessions found that relying on Hernandez's statements would be "profoundly unsafe" unless there's tangible corroborating evidence, according to Fishbein. So far, no such evidence has been found, he said.