Justice for little boy who went missing – four decades ago

By Almari Wessels
15 February 2017

Little Etan Patz's face was the first to feature on a milk carton when he went missing 38 years ago.

His face was the first to feature on a milk carton when he went missing 38 years ago – and now there's finally been justice for little Etan Patz. On Tuesday a jury in the USA convicted Pedro Hernandez (56), a shop clerk, of the six-year-old’s murder on 25 May 1979 – a case that's been dubbed one of New York City’s “oldest and most painful unsolved crimes”. “The Patz family has waited a long time, but we’ve finally found some measure of justice for our wonderful little boy, Etan,” his father, Stan Patz, said after the jury’s verdict was delivered. Stan and his wife, Julie, have over the past four decades become advocates for a national fingerprint database and for federal laws to require schools to let parents know when their children don’t show up at school.

Read more: Body of missing Paarl woman found in shallow grave On the morning of his disappearance it was the first day that Etan ever walked himself to the bus stop on his way to school. Four years after his disappearance then president Ronald Reagan declared 25 May National Missing Children's Day. "I'm really grateful that this jury finally came back with a conviction which confirms something I've known for a long time – that this man, Pedro Hernandez, is guilty of doing something really terrible so many years ago."

For years investigators followed leads and clues that even involved looking for Etan’s murderer in Israel. But in 2012 their attention shifted to Hernandez as the main suspect when his brother-in-law told the police that Hernandez had told several people he killed Etan.

After an interrogation that lasted several hours, Hernandez confessed to police, telling them that he'd lured Etan into the basement of the store where he worked with a soda, choked him and put him in a box that he placed next to a trash pile on the street.

Read more: Man’s missing wife ‘comes back to life’ – on Instagram

“I just couldn’t let go; something just took over me," Hernandez told police officers when questioned.

But Hernandez’s legal team is set to appeal the guilty verdict as they believe their mentally troubled client is “odd, limited and vulnerable”. They plan to argue that his revelation that he killed Etan was merely a delusional flight of fancy. "In the end, we don't believe this will resolve the story of what happened to Etan back in 1979," Harvey Fishbein, his lead lawyer, said.

But the district attorney (DA) of New York’s Manhattan District remained firm in the conviction that Etan’s killer has finally been brought to book. "The disappearance of Etan Patz haunted families in New York and across the country for nearly four decades," DA Cyrus Vance said in a statement following the jury's verdict.

"Bringing closure on Etan's disappearance to the Patz family has also been among my highest priorities since I took office. Today, a jury affirmed beyond all lasting doubt that Pedro Hernandez kidnapped and killed the missing child."

Sources: cnn.com; bbc.com; news24.com;

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