NJ man charged with murder in 1979 death of Etan Patz

(AP) - Thirty-three years to the day after 6-year-old Etan Patz vanished without a trace while walking to catch a school bus, a man accused

NEW YORK - (AP) - Thirty-three years to the day after 6-year-old Etan Patz vanished without a trace while walking to catch a school bus, a man accused of strangling him and dumping his body with the trash was arraigned on a murder charge on Friday in a locked hospital ward where he was being held as a suicide risk.

A lawyer for Pedro Hernandez, who was a teenage convenience store stock clerk at the time of the boy's disappearance, told the judge that his client is mentally ill and has a history of hallucinations.

Hernandez, now 51, appeared in court on Friday evening via video camera from a conference room at Bellevue Hospital, where he was admitted earlier in the day after making comments about wanting to kill himself.

The legal proceeding lasted only around 4 minutes. Hernandez didn't speak or enter a plea, but his court-appointed lawyer, Harvey Fishbein, told the judge that his client was bipolar and schizophrenic and has a "history of hallucinations, both visual and auditory."

A judge ordered Hernandez held without bail and authorized a psychological examination to see if he is fit to stand trial.

Hernandez was expressionless during the hearing. He wore an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs. A police officer stood behind him.

The prosecutor who appeared in court, Assistant District Attorney Armand Durastanti, said it was "33 years ago today that 6-year-old Etan Patz left his home on Prince Street to catch his school bus. He has not been seen or heard from since. It's been 33 years, and justice has not been done in this case."

Hernandez, a churchgoing father now living in Maple Shade, N.J., was arrested Thursday after making a surprise confession in a case that has bedeviled investigators and inspired dread in generations of New York City parents for three decades.

Etan disappeared on May 25, 1979, on his two-block walk to his bus stop in Manhattan. It was the first time his parents had let him walk the route by himself.

Next to the bus stop was a convenience store, where Hernandez, then 18, worked as a clerk. When police, acting on a tip, interviewed him this week, he said he lured Etan into the basement with a promise of a soda, choked him to death, then stuffed his body in a bag and left it with trash on the street a block away, police said.

Crime scene investigators also arrived Friday morning at the building in Manhattan's SoHo section that once held the bodega where Hernandez worked. Authorities were considering excavating the basement for evidence.

They were also looking into whether Hernandez has a history of mental illness or pedophilia.

AP wire services contributed to this report

advertisement | advertise on News 12

Trending Video

They say the speculators are buying homes and 1 Activists rally against gentrification in Cypress Hills, East NY
VIDEO: March to help seniors apply to college 2 VIDEO: March to help seniors apply to college
The hand-bell ensemble will be performing again at 3 VIDEO: Long Island ReSound perform holiday classics
A Bronx-based artist has opened a cash-optional, pop-up 4 Artist opens up cash-optional coffee shop in Williamsburg
Participants in the 5 'Krampus Krawl' provides darker alternative to SantaCon

advertisement | advertise on News 12

Features

Furry Friends is a weekly segment on News Furry Friends

Furry Friends is a weekly segment on News 12 Brooklyn nightside.

Sorry to interrupt...

Your first 5 are free

Access to News12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Time Warner® and Service Electric℠ video customers.

Please enjoy 5 complimentary views to articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.

LOGIN SUBSCRIBE