Friday, May 25, 2012

An Admission of Guilt, But Whither The Evidence?

Pedro Hernandez apparently confessed yesterday to murdering Etan Patz and then disposing of his body in the trash 33 years ago today. He was transferred to Bellvue Hospital in NYC and is under suicide watch.
It was unclear where Mr. Hernandez was held until he was moved to the hospital, and the official could not say whether he was transferred for any formal evaluation. Mr. Hernandez has been accused of second-degree murder by the police but has yet to be charged by prosecutors.

He told investigators that on the day Etan, 6, disappeared on his way to a school bus stop in SoHo, he lured the boy to the basement of the bodega where he worked with the promise of a soda, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said Thursday night. Once inside, Mr. Hernandez said he choked Etan, stuffed his body in a bag and took the bag about a block and a half away, where dumped it in the open amid other trash.
Despite the admission and confession, investigators still need to find evidence to link him to the crime; charges are pending. It's also troublesome that several family members had heard Hernandez tell stories of him doing bad things to a kid in NYC and that the kid was killed, but no one apparently took him seriously enough until the latest round of investigations in NYC earlier this month led one family member to speak with investigators.
One family member told The Star-Ledger that Hernandez joked that he had killed Etan but did not make the claim in earnest. The family member did not want to be identified for fear of upsetting other relatives.

Kelly said the tip was generated in the wake of a flurry of media reports about the case last month, when the NYPD and the FBI dug up the basement of a building down the block from the Patz home. Authorities suspected a local handyman who had a workshop in the basement killed and buried Patz there.

That man has now been cleared, Kelly said.

The family member who spoke to The Star-Ledger said the recent news about the search prompted Hernandez to call his sister, Luz, in New York City to talk about the case. The relative found it odd, saying Hernandez wasn't especially close to his sister and that the New Jersey man wasn't calling just to make chitchat.

Kelly said Hernandez was never before a focus of the exhaustive investigation, though his name was one of many in police documents listing those who lived or worked in the area. Hernandez had an apartment nearby and had been working as a stock clerk for about a month when Etan was killed in 1979.
It will still be up to prosecutors to make the case based on circumstantial evidence since there's nothing other than the confession and hearsay evidence that ties Hernandez to the crime.

If the remains of Patz were tossed in the garbage, it might be possible to track down where the garbage load was delivered (quite possibly to Great Kills landfill on Staten Island), but as we've seen with other instances of bodies dumped in garbage landfills, the chances of finding the remains after all these decades is quite slim.

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