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Published: Wed, February 15, 2017
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Guilty Verdict In Etan Patz Case, Nearly 40 Years After Boy's Disappearance


Stanley Patz, Etan's father, told The New York Times after the verdict: "I'm really grateful - I'm really grateful - this jury finally came back with what I've known for a long time that this man, Pedro Hernandez, is guilty of doing something really awful so many years ago". "I was nervous. His legs were jerking", Hernandez said during a six-hour interrogation by police.

During closing arguments in late January, Hernandez' attorneys said he is "an odd, limited and vulnerable man" - but not a killer.

A jury fell one vote short of convicting Hernandez in 2015, prompting prosecutors to put him on trial again. "He could tell fantasy from reality".

Jurors delivered their verdict Tuesday.

Defense lawyer Harvey Fishbein argued in his summation that the real killer is convicted and now imprisoned child molester Jose Ramos, 73, who was a longtime suspect in the case.

"The disappearance of Etan Patz haunted families in NY and across the country for almost four decades", said Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance.

In 1983, then United States president Ronald Reagan declared the anniversary of his disappearance National Missing Children's Day.

During summation in this re-trial, Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon played a montage of the defendant's many confessions to police, prosecutors and psychiatric experts since his arrest. "Today, a jury affirmed beyond all lasting doubt that Pedro Hernandez kidnapped and killed the missing child".

The previous trial was declared a mistrial when all but one juror agreed to convict.

The jury convicted 56-year-old Pedro Hernandez after nine days of deliberation.

Hernandez has been in custody since 2012 when he confessed to police that he killed Etan in the basement of the convenience store before dumping his body out with the trash. Authorities would later learn that he'd made similar, if not entirely consistent, remarks to a friend and his ex-wife in the early years after Etan vanished. "I wanted to let go, but I just couldn't let go". "I felt like something just took over me". But he never confessed and was never prosecuted.

Defense attorneys argued vehemently that Hernandez had a low IQ, suffered from hallucinations and delusions and was an "unreliable" source. His daughter testified that he talked about seeing visions of angels and demons and once watered a dead tree branch, believing it would grow.

But prosecutors suggested Hernandez faked or exaggerated his symptoms.

Patz became one of he first missing children ever pictured on milk cartons. The man was never charged and denies killing Etan.

The holdout juror later said that he believed the confession was coerced.

Deliberations were hard, but "we had constructive conversations, based in logic, that were analytical and creative and adaptive, and compassionate", foreman Thomas Hoscheid said.

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