Etan Patz's Accused Killer Suffers From Hallucinations, Lawyer Says
MANHATTAN CRIMINAL COURT — The man who confessed this week to murdering Etan Patz has a long history of mental illness, including hallucinations, his lawyer said Friday.
Pedro Hernandez, 51, who was arraigned Friday from Bellevue Hospital Center on one felony count of second-degree murder in the disappearance of the 6-year-old SoHo boy, suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and is currently on medication, said Harvey Fishbein, Hernandez's lawyer.
"He has a history of hallucinations, both visual and auditory," Fishbein said during Hernandez's arraignment, which was transmitted via video camera from Bellevue. Hernandez is also on suicide watch, according to reports.
In the conference room, Hernandez stared off into the distance with a blank look on his face during the brief proceeding before Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Matthew Sciarrino Jr. He wore an orange jumpsuit and kept his hands behind his back.
He was ordered held without bail and will undergo a psychiatric evaluation before his next court appearance June 25. He faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted.
Hernandez sent shock waves through the city after confessing to luring Patz from a SoHo school bus stop to the basement of a West Broadway bodega where he worked, strangling the boy and stuffing his body into a bag.
The arraignment came 33 years to the day after the terrifying disappearance May 25, 1979.
"It's been 33 years and justice has not yet been done in this case," Assistant District Attorney Armand Durastanti said during the arraignment.
Afterward, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. released a statement saying that the investigation is still ongoing.
"This is the beginning of the legal process, not the end," Vance said. "There is much investigative and other work ahead, and it will be conducted in a measured and careful manner."
Police must now piece together evidence to prove Hernandez's guilt, and present corroborating details to prove that the possibly disturbed man actually did what he says he did.
This week, police brought Hernandez back to the basement of the former bodega on West Broadway, and Hernandez reenacted the alleged murder while cops took photos, a source said. He told police he put the boy's body in a plastic bag, then in a box, then in the trash, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said.
Police picked Hernandez up Wednesday after one of his relatives called in a tip. Hernandez told cops, "I did it," a source said.
Kelly said the police department had been aware at the time that Hernandez worked in the bodega, but that he was not questioned back in 1979.
“It sounds like something slipped through the cracks,” Edwin Dreher, 84, then the acting Chief of Detectives, told the NY Daily News. “Sometimes you have to go back two, three, four times.”
Jose Lopez, the suspect's brother-in-law, was the person who tipped off law enforcement officials, CBS News reported.
When asked by a reporter if he thought Hernandez was the killer, Lopez said, "No doubt about it. He said he did what he did," according to CBS. Another news outlet, the Daily Mail, reported that Lopez, 58, said Hernandez had a short temper. "When he was younger Pedro had a really short fuse and would get angry at nothing," he told the UK paper.
The Mail also reported that Hernandez's wife Rosemary, 51, had once taken out a restraining order against him, but had recently allowed him to move back into the family home with their daughter.
Hernandez's neighbors in Maple Shade, N.J., were shocked by the allegations and said Hernandez was a quiet family man. Neighbors believed he was suffering from cancer. And police said he had a back injury that has kept him on disability, the Associated Press reported.
On the morning Etan Patz went missing, his parents had allowed him to walk alone from his Prince Street home to his bus stop for the first time.
Patz's parents, who still live on Prince Street just around the corner from the bodega where their son was allegedly killed, did not speak to reporters Friday. They posted a sign on their door saying, "No Comment."
The case of the missing 6-year-old captivated New York and put a spotlight on the cases of missing children across the country. Patz's face was one of the first to appear on a milk carton.
Although no body was ever found, Patz was declared dead in 2001.
Until this week, no one had ever been criminally charged in Patz's death.