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Man Who Confessed to Killing Etan Patz Will Face Trial

By Andrea Swalec | May 15, 2013 3:40pm | Updated on May 15, 2013 5:48pm

MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — A judge ruled Wednesday that there is sufficient evidence against the man who confessed to kidnapping and killing 6-year-old Etan Patz in SoHo 33 years ago for the case against him to go to trial.

With Hernandez, 52, in court Wednesday afternoon appearing gaunt, Hon. Maxwell Wiley turned down a bid for the case to be dismissed and ruled that prosecutors may be able to prove that Pedro Hernandez killed Etan.

Hernandez's defense attorney, Harvey Fishbein, said he plans to prove in court that Hernandez made a false confession in May 2012.

"We're prepared to go to trial and show the people of New York that Pedro Hernandez had nothing to do with what happened to Etan Patz in 1979," Fishbein said.

He added that he feared the attention on Hernandez — who Fishbein has previously said has hallucinations and an IQ in the "borderline-to-mild mental retardation range" — distracted from the investigation into previously suspected Jose Ramos, who was questioned and released last year.

"That's where we believe the focus should be," Fishbein said.

In March, Wiley turned down Fishbein's request to grant the attorney early access to grand jury minutes, which Fishbein hoped would prove prosecutors lacked sufficient evidence to indict Hernandez.

Etan, whose family still lives on Prince Street, disappeared on May 25, 1979, the first day he was allowed to walk to the school bus by himself. A lengthy police investigation proved inconclusive.

In 2001, the child was declared dead, even though his body was never found.

In May 2012, Hernandez, a husband and father of two with no criminal record, became the centerpiece of the reopened investigation when authorities received a tip from his family member.

Hernandez, who was 19 at the time of Etan's disappearance, told investigators he lured Etan into the basement of the West Broadway bodega where he worked with the promise of a soda, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said last year.

Hernandez said he choked the child and put his body in a plastic bag, which he left on the street, police said.

Hernandez is due back in court July 31.