Suspect faces judge in Etan Patz murder case - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Suspect faces judge in Etan Patz murder case

Posted: Updated:

By COLLEEN LONG | AP 

NEW YORK (AP) — The man charged with killing a 6-year-old New York City boy who was infamously abducted in 1979 pleaded not guilty Wednesday, while his lawyer insisted his confession to police was false.

Pedro Hernandez, 51, wore a gray sweatsuit and answered "not guilty" at the hearing in the case of Etan Patz, whose disappearance helped spawn the movement to publicize cases of missing children.

"My client had no motive and no history," defense attorney Harvey Fishbein said outside court.

"There is a serious question as to what happened in May 1979," Fishbein said. "There is no crime scene. There are no witnesses to a crime."

Fishbein also noted a body was never recovered.

He said that Hernandez confessed falsely after seven hours of questioning by police, and that he is still under medical and psychiatric care.

"My client is not happy that he is in jail," Fishbein said.

Fishbein said he would seek to dismiss the case because the only evidence is his client's false confession. Under state law, a confession can be enough to convict someone as long as authorities can establish a crime occurred and the confession is reliable.

But if the case does go forward, Fishbein said the defense will revolve around his client's mental state, though he isn't pursuing an insanity defense and Hernandez was found mentally fit to stand trial.

An insanity defense would mean acknowledging he committed the crime but arguing that he was too psychologically ill to know it was wrong. Hernandez didn't kill Etan and made a false confession because of his mental problems, among other factors, Fishbein said.

"The only part that mental disease plays in this case is its role in the confession," he said before the court date.

Psychiatric exams of the jailed Hernandez have found that he has an IQ in the borderline-to-mild mental retardation range, his lawyer has said. Hernandez also has been found to suffer from schizotypal personality disorder, which is characterized by hallucinations, according to his lawyer.

The defendant's wife and daughter attended the hearing but did not speak to reporters.

Etan's disappearance led to an intensive search and garnered huge publicity. His photo was among the first put on milk cartons, and his case turned May 25 into National Missing Children's Day.

Hernandez was a teenage stock clerk at a convenience store when Etan disappeared on his way to school on May 25, 1979. Hernandez was a married father with no criminal record and living in Maple Shade, N.J., when police approached him based on a tip this year. The tip came after federal authorities and police dug up a basement in the neighborhood hoping for clues, putting the cold case back into the limelight once again.

Investigators say Hernandez told them he lured the boy into the convenience store with the promise of a soda. According to police, he said he led the child to the basement, choked him and left his body in a bag of trash about a block away.

Etan's parents, Stan and Julie Patz, have been reluctant to move or even change their phone number in case their son tried to reach out. They have not commented.

Etan was declared legally dead by his father more than a decade ago so he could sue convicted child molester Jose Ramos in the boy's death. Ramos was found responsible — a ruling made because he didn't entirely cooperate with questioning during the lawsuit — and Fishbein could seek to make that a factor in Hernandez's defense.

Ramos, now 69, had been dating the boy's baby sitter in 1979 and was the prime suspect for years, but he was never charged. He repeatedly denies having anything to do with Etan's disappearance.

Ramos was later convicted of molesting two different children. He completed a 27-year sentence last month but was immediately arrested upon his release from a Pennsylvania prison, because authorities said he had given them a false address for where he'd be living.

Ramos is currently jailed in Pennsylvania on charges of failing to properly register as a sex offender under Megan's Law immediately after he was released earlier this year from prison.

___

Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.

  • Manhattan NewsManhattan NewsMore>>

  • NBA's Felton pleads guilty in gun case

    NBA's Felton pleads guilty in gun case

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 12:15 PM EDT2014-07-23 16:15:05 GMT
    Former NY Knicks point guard Raymond Felton pleaded guilty Wednesday in a Manhattan gun case, taking a plea deal that involved admitting a felony but spares him jail. Last winter, after Felton's law student wife filed for divorce, her attorney brought a loaded semi-automatic handgun to a police precinct and said it was Felton's and she wanted it out of the house, authorities said.  Felton's attorney said he never threatened anyone with the gun.
    Former NY Knicks point guard Raymond Felton pleaded guilty Wednesday in a Manhattan gun case, taking a plea deal that involved admitting a felony but spares him jail. Last winter, after Felton's law student wife filed for divorce, her attorney brought a loaded semi-automatic handgun to a police precinct and said it was Felton's and she wanted it out of the house, authorities said. Felton's attorney said he never threatened anyone with the gun.
  • Is NYC the most unhappy city in America?

    Is NYC the most unhappy city in America?

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 10:29 AM EDT2014-07-23 14:29:16 GMT
    When researchers in Canada and Harvard University examined the results of a survey that asked “In general, how satisfied are you with your life?” they found that New York City is the unhappiest city in the country. The data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Pittsburgh, Louisville, Milwaukee and Detroit round out the list.
    When researchers in Canada and Harvard University examined the results of a survey that asked “In general, how satisfied are you with your life?” they found that New York City is the unhappiest city in the country. The data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Pittsburgh, Louisville, Milwaukee and Detroit round out the list.
  • New York adults gather for skipping club

    New York adults gather for skipping club

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 10:36 PM EDT2014-07-23 02:36:57 GMT
    Meet one fitness class that's spreading positivity and shedding pounds by skipping in a skipping club. Michelle Joni is the group's founder. She came up with the idea when she was heading to get a manicure and it was so cold she started skipping to stay warm.
    Meet one fitness class that's spreading positivity and shedding pounds by skipping in a skipping club. Michelle Joni is the group's founder. She came up with the idea when she was heading to get a manicure and it was so cold she started skipping to stay warm.
Powered by WorldNow

WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
5151 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20016
Main Number: (202) 244-5151
Newsroom: (202) 895-3000
fox5tips@wttg.com

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices