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Tearful Mother Testifies About Losing 'Trusting' Etan Patz At Murder Trial

By Irene Plagianos | February 2, 2015 3:39pm
 The trial of alleged Etan Patz murderer Pedro Hernandez continued in Manhattan Supreme Court Monday.
Julie Patz Testifies at Murder Trial
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MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — Wiping tears from her eyes, the mother of Etan Patz described the heartbreaking day her 6-year-old son vanished — his first day walking to the school bus stop alone — as she testified in Manhattan Supreme Court Monday morning.

“I watched him walk one block away," said Julie Patz, dabbing tears away, as she spoke of her small “trusting” boy’s walk along Prince Street on May 25, 1979. "I turned around and went back upstairs and that was the last time I've ever seen him."

Patz took the stand on the second day in the trial of her son’s accused murderer, Pedro Hernandez.

Etan Patz disappeared without at trace nearly 35 years ago, after convincing his mother to let him walk the two blocks to his bus stop on his own from the family’s 113 Prince St., loft — an apartment the Patz family still lives in.

As she was questioned by prosecutors Monday, Patz — wearing a black jacket, and red turtleneck, her gray hair swept up in a ponytail — described how her little boy, her middle child, was a “sensitive” and social child, who loved his friends, loved his collection of Matchbox cars.

“He was totally outgoing and trusting of everyone, totally nonjudgemental about people," she said. “Everyone that he met once was his friend and a nice person.”

At the same time, though, she added, “he was very fearful of being lost or left alone.”

She cried when speaking of those terrible hours after she learned Etan never made it to the bus stop, or school, that misty, gray day — and of the “madhouse” that her apartment became.

"I don't remember a thing about that night and the next day, quite honestly," she said, aside from her awful feelings and of “not being able to stand very well.”

She never saw her son again, she said, but in the decades since he went missing, it's been “very difficult” to move one, for her and her family.

The family has been inundated with false leads, people showing up at their home claiming to be Etan, calls from “delusional” people saying they have tips, she said. Despite the calls, the family has never changed their phone number.

“It’s been very difficult to come back to normalcy,” she said, adding that every time things seem to settle down a bit, there’s some supposed “new development” that sucks them back into the pain of losing their son.

She especially lamented how hard it’s been for her two other children, who were 8 and 2-years-old at the time of Etan’s disappearance — saying her children's whole lives have been tainted by the disappearance of Etan and its aftermath.

In May 2012, 53-year-old Pedro Hernandez confessed to police that he strangled Etan in the basement of a bodega that was right by the child’s school bus stop, on West Broadway and Prince Street. 

The small, cramped bodega was a place the neighborhood children and parents frequented — it was a place, Julie Patz said, that the children were told was a safe place, where they could head in case of emergency.

Prosecutors contend that Hernandez, who was 18 when he allegedly killed Etan, has been hiding details of the murder for decades, until he "unburdened" himself with his confession to police.

Hernandez's lawyer claimed his client suffers from delusions and he made a false confession.

Police have reportedly found little to no physical evidence to corroborate Hernandez's story. He's been in jail since his arrest in May 2012.

Patz, whose family still lives on Prince Street, was one of the first children to appear on milk cartons after he disappeared. A lengthy police investigation after he went missing proved inconclusive.

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

Hernandez's murder trial is slated to last for about three months.