Though sources said FBI investigators and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance have also expressed doubts over the man's out-of-the-blue confession last week, for the Patz family it's the latest in a string of admissions of guilt they've heard in the past 33 years.
The ones in the past have turned out to be delusional.
Not only have people previously come forward claiming to be their son's killer, or to have critical information about his disappearance, only to turn out to be glory seekers or crackpots. There have also been occasions when young blond-haired men have shown up at Stanley Patz's photo studio, looked him in the eye and sworn they were his long-lost son, sources told "On The Inside."
One man actually walked up to Stan Patz, called him “Dad,” and then announced, "I am Etan.”
Another man in recent years was so insistent he was asked to submit to a DNA test in order to prove to him that he was just another young man who glommed onto the infamous case and somehow came to believe he was the missing boy from SoHo now grown up, one source revealed.
The May 25 anniversary of Etan's disappearance can inspire new people to come forward with their claims, sources said.
Such is the creepy hidden world of false hope the Patzes have had to endure.
And because of that, sources close to the Patz family said, they are skeptical about Hernandez, a bipolar schizophrenic on powerful drugs who worked as a stockboy at a SoHo bodega in 1979 and made a sudden confession to police last week, nearly 33 years to the day since Etan vanished.
Sources said Stan Patz was "surprised" and "taken aback" when Lt. Christopher Zimmerman of the NYPD Missing Persons Squad told him of the break in the case and that the NYPD was charging Hernandez. Sources added, however, that after the initial shock, Patz "took the news in stride."
Which is the way Stan Patz has handled all these revelations, from the horrific beginning to last week's developments. He has been gracious and admirable through the horrendous emotional roller coaster his family has endured since his little boy disappeared while on his way to catch a school bus for the first time so long ago.
Somehow Stan Patz, along with his wife and daughter, managed to go on as a family, living with the loss and searching for a measure of justice.
Etan's family believed they had found that in 2004 when Jose Ramos, a convicted pedophile who dated Etan’s babysitter, was declared responsible for their son's death by a civil judge.
The Patzes believe Ramos killed Etan. When Ramos surfaced as the prime suspect in the 1980s, they participated at every stage in a grueling investigation that took root with prosecutors in the office of Manhattan's then-U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani and with the FBI.
Finally, a civil court judge faced with a mountain of strong circumstantial evidence declared Ramos guilty of wrongful death following a suit by the Patz family. It was not a criminal conviction, but it was no hollow decision.
The ruling was based on statements Ramos had made to investigators such as the fact he admitted he had taken a blond boy that May 25 morning from the bus stop that he was "90 percent certain" was Etan.
And there were statements he made in prison, such as the time he suddenly burst into tears during a Seder.
"I did not mean to hurt you Etan . . .I loved you," he sobbed, according to an “On The Inside” source.
Stan Patz has been so convinced of Ramos’ guilt that every year, on Etan's birthday and on the anniversary of his disappearance, Patz sends Ramos a Missing Child poster of his son. On the back he writes, "What did you do to my little boy?"
The Patzes eventually went to court and won a symbolic $2 million judgment against Ramos, who is getting out of prison this November after serving 20 years for molesting boys.
We will see if the Hernandez case ever goes to a grand jury.
Law enforcement officials aside from the NYPD know the hurdles this case faces. The FBI has a unit of profilers who already determined Ramos was the likely killer. And the Manhattan DA knows a confession from a schizophrenic is problematic in a three decade-old cold case.
Everyone involved hopes Hernandez is the killer, and that prosecutors can prove it.
No one hopes for that more than the Patzes. No one will be more elated if it happens.
And no one will be more surprised.