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May 24, 2012

U.S. News: Man claims he lured Etan Patz, boy who disappeared 33 years ago, with candy

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thumbnail Man claims he lured Etan Patz, boy who disappeared 33 years ago, with candy
May 24th 2012, 11:17

A suspect is in custody after making statements to NYPD detectives implicating himself in the disappearance and death of Etan Patz, a 6-year-old boy who vanished 33 years ago from his Manhattan neighborhood. WNBC-TV's Jonathan Dienst reports.

By Jonathan Dienst and Shimon Prokupecz,

A New Jersey man claims he lured Etan Patz, the 6-year-old boy who vanished more than 30 years ago as he walked to the school bus from his SoHo home, into a nearby store with candy and later killed him, reported Thursday.

The NYPD is questioning the man, who was taken into custody Wednesday evening. He has been identified by law enforcement officials as Pedro Hernandez of Camden, N.J., and hasn't been charged with any crimes yet.

Hernandez was previously known to investigators, law enforcement sources said, and worked and lived in Patz's neighborhood when the boy disappeared. Officials said they recently received a tip about him from the suspect's brother-in-law.

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The store that the boy was lured into was close to Patz's house, the suspect told officials, reported Thursday. He claimed he then attacked Patz.

The man who gave police the tip said he remembered Hernandez speaking of having killed a child and disposing of the body at the SoHo bodega here he worked, a source told Both the tipster and his wife, as well as a religious mentor, say they remember Hernandez saying he harmed a child in 1979.

Hernandez never mentioned a name when he spoke about the child he had caused harm to, they all said in interviews with police.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said in a statement that the suspect "has made statements to NYPD detectives implicating himself in the disappearance and death of Etan Patz 33 years ago."

But law enforcement officials cautioned it was too early for police to know if the account could be corroborated. Police are working on verifying it and the investigation is continuing, they said.

Hernandez so far has not provided details that would lead them to Patz's body, sources said.

An intensive search for Patz was renewed several weeks ago when police dug up the basement of a handyman's workshop near Patz's SoHo home. A new layer of concrete had been laid over the foundation of the basement shortly after Patz disappeared.

That search yielded no new evidence of value, police said.

Several sources have indicated some skepticism exists about the man's story, but police are being thorough in their investigation of any possible leads.

One other man has remained a longtime possible suspect: Jose Ramos, a drifter and onetime boyfriend of Patz's babysitter. In the early 1980s, he was arrested on theft charges, and had photos of other young, blond boys in his backpack. But there was no hard evidence linking Ramos to the crime. He is in prison in Pennsylvania on a separate case.

NYPD via AP, file

This undated image provided Friday, May 28, 2010 by Stanley K. Patz shows a flyer distributed by the New York Police Department of Patz's son Etan, who vanished in New York on May 25, 1979.

Police end search for Etan Patz remains
Investigators collect hair, paper in search for Patz

Patz's disappearance touched off a massive search that has ebbed and flowed over the years. It also ushered in an era of anxiety about leaving children unsupervised.

His parents, Stan and Julie Patz, were reluctant to move or even change their phone number in case their son tried to reach out. They still live in the same apartment, down the street from the building that was examined in April. They have endured decades of false leads, and a lack of hard evidence.      

The family did not immediately return a message requesting comment.    

Stan Patz had his son declared legally dead in 2001 so he could sue Ramos, who has never been criminally charged with the boy's death and denies harming the boy. A civil judge in 2004 found Ramos to be responsible for the child's death.

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