(REUTERS/NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT) – Etan Patz vanished in 1979 in New York on his first walk alone to the school bus stop.
He’s thought to have been killed at what was then a deli.
His body’s never been found. He was officially declared dead in 2001.
Thirty-six years later a man on trial for his murder has walked free after jurors failed to agree a verdict.
Etan’s father Stan Patz was clearly distressed.
STAN PATZ, FATHER OF ETAN PATZ,
“How many times does a man have to confess before someone believes him? And it’s not a hallucination. You can take all the schizotypical psycho-babble and all the cocaine in the world but underneath it all you have a guilty man who finally got it off his chest.”
Pedro Hernandez told police three years ago that he choked Etan and put his body in a box in an alley.
His defence lawyers say he’s mentally ill and that another man convicted of sex offences was to blame.
After the mistrial declaration they insisted Hernandez was no killer.
PEDRO HERNANDEZ’S DEFENCE ATTORNEY HARVEY FISHBEIN,
“Pedro’s reaction was a very simple one. ‘Does that mean I don’t have to come back on Monday?’. Pedro is not a keen and cunning individual, Pedro is not a planner, Pedro is not someone who’d spend 35 years avoiding criminal prosecution.”
Some of the jurors in the case have been explaining why no unanimous verdict was reached after 18 days of deliberations.
“Ultimately I couldn’t find enough evidence that wasn’t circumstantial to convict, I couldn’t get there.”
“I’m very sad that we could not bring closure to the case for a lot of reasons – for the Patz family, for the Hernandez family, for the city of New York. But we really tried our hardest and I don’t think we could have done any more from my point of view.”
Prosecution and defence lawyers are due to meet next month to discuss what happens next and confirm a date for a possible retrial.