Judge rules Etan Patz murder case against Pedro Hernandez can continue

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

May 15, 2013 11:40:56 AM PDT
A judge has declined to throw out a murder case against a man charged decades after an infamous 1979 child disappearance in New York City.

The ruling came Wednesday in the case against Pedro Hernandez of Maple Shade, N.J.

He was charged last year with killing 6-year-old Etan Patz (AY'-tahn PAYTS'). Etan was last seen walking to his school bus stop in Manhattan.

Etan became one of the first vanished children to be pictured on a milk carton.

Hernandez's attorney asked a judge to dismiss the case. The lawyer, Harvey Fishbein, says Hernandez is mentally ill and his confession to investigators was false.

The Manhattan district attorney's office said there was enough evidence to sustain the charges. Prosecutors say they don't believe Hernandez's confession is the product of mental illness.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

A man charged with murder decades after one of the nation's most infamous child disappearances is due to learn whether a judge believes there's enough evidence to bring the case to trial.

Pedro Hernandez of Maple Shade, N.J., was awaiting a ruling due Wednesday in the case surrounding 6-year-old Etan Patz, last seen walking to his Manhattan school bus stop in 1979.

Authorities say they have finally found the culprit in Hernandez, who confessed after his arrest last year and had made incriminating remarks years before. But his lawyer has said that Hernandez is schizophrenic and bipolar, and that his admission was false, peppered with questionable claims and made after almost seven hours of police questioning.

"No evidence or witnesses have been found corroborating any of the few facts" in Hernandez's confession, defense lawyer Harvey Fishbein wrote last month in papers arguing that the case should be dismissed.

The Manhattan district attorney's office has previously said there's enough proof to sustain the case, Hernandez willingly talked with investigators and prosecutors don't believe his confession is a mentally ill man's imaginings. Under New York law, a person can be convicted based only on a confession, if there's additional evidence that a crime was committed.

"The evidence before the grand jury (that indicted Hernandez) amply supports the offenses charged," prosecutors wrote in a filing this winter.

Etan vanished on May 25, 1979; the anniversary later was named National Missing Children's Day in his memory. He became one of the first vanished children pictured on a milk carton.

Hernandez, 52, was arrested last May after police got a tip that he'd told people years before that he had killed a child in New York City.

Hernandez then told authorities he'd seen Etan at the bus stop, offered the boy a soda to entice him to a corner store where Hernandez worked and choked the boy in the basement. Hernandez said he tossed Etan's book bag behind a basement freezer, put his limp body in a box and left it with some trash about a block away.