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Memorial for Etan Patz Appears in Wake of Confession

By Jess Wisloski | May 26, 2012 5:46pm
A memorial set up at 448 Broadway, where the former bodega that Pedro Hernandez worked at was. The shrine appeared May 25, 2012.
A memorial set up at 448 Broadway, where the former bodega that Pedro Hernandez worked at was. The shrine appeared May 25, 2012.
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DNAinfo/Jesse Lent

SOHO — It had been 33 years, but the fears touched off by Etan Patz's 1979 disappearance seemed to resonate through SoHo following the alleged killer's recent confession.

On the same day that Pedro Hernandez, 51, who admitted to having lured the little boy into the basement of the familliar neighborhood bodega, was arraigned for the alleged crime a shrine appeared in the store's former location.

Around noon on Friday, some flowers had appeared and a taped newspaper photo of Etan Patz, with writing on it. By Saturday, several more bouquets had collected, and a stuffed teddy bear, all memorializing the little boy.

And, possibly memorializing a moment in the city's history.

Now the neighborhood is filled with tourists, and most passersby took just quick glances at the colorful bouquets and little boy's photo Saturday.

But some locals remember how the event became a tide-changer in how the city viewed itself.

"It brought out a lot of suspicious," recalled Joseph Moscato, 69. "Was it your neighbor? It sort of set people back where they felt very negative in general."

The Bronx photographer says he used to hang out in SoHo, and said Patz's disappearance touched off a "sea change" for city dwellers.

"Crime was up in the city. People felt they weren't safe," he said. "After that, it seemed like anything could happen. You never felt safe. Especially with the kids."

Stephen Masullo, an owner of Soho Wines and Spirits, which has been on the block since 1978, remembered how iconic the boy's image was.

"He was a photographer," he said, of Stan Patz, Ethan's dad. "He had beautiful photos of this kid, and this is SoHo. This was the first of that kind of case," he said.

Despite the arrest, Moscato noted that the case isn't over.

"There was never closure, and there still isn't. He's [Hernandez] not exactly a solvent guy to put in prison. He could be crazy."

A younger sister of Hernandez, Lucy Suarez, 43, told the NY Post her brother had tried to confess to police many years ago, but they dismissed him as a "nutjob" and didn't follow through, she said.

Commissioner Ray Kelly said the police department had been aware at the time that Hernandez worked in the bodega, but that he unfortunately had not been 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.”

Additionally, the Post reported that the Patz case might have missed important tips because the NYPD had a disorganized investigation, with 500 officers assigned to the case at one point. Battling egos and inconsistent filing of information may have led to oversights, the paper reported.