The killer of Etan Patz, a child who went missing in 1979 in a high-profile incident that sparked national interest, was found guilty of murder back in February. The trial concluded decades after the crime had occurred. Now, Pedro Hernandez potentially faces 25 years to life in prison for the killing.
“Pedro Hernandez, after all these years, we finally know what dark secret you had locked in your heart. You took our precious child and threw him in the garbage. I will never forgive you. The God you pray to will never forgive you," said Stanley Patz, Etan’s father, before the sentencing was delivered.
“There were so many false leads, so many blind alleys, so many years went by — we didn’t know if it would ever happen,” he later added. “Now I know what the face of evil looks like, and he’s finally convicted.”
Hernandez apparently staked out Patz for days before the abduction. He pled not guilty to the crimes, despite a videotaped confession. Lawyers maintained his innocence, saying that their client was mentally ill and had fabricated his admission. In the confession, Hernandez admitted to luring Patz into a bodega basement and choking him to death. He said he discarded the body in a nearby dumpster. Patz's remains have never been found, but the publicity surrounding the case led to the creation of a national Missing Children's Day and an increased awareness of child kidnappings.
This is technically the second trial Hernandez has faced for his crimes after the first trial resulted in a deadlock. Hernandez was not originally considered a suspect in the murder, despite the fact that he admitted to the killing to family members and an ex-wife. Hernandez's brother-in-law had tipped off police, leading to a more thorough investigation. Police say that Hernandez's confession (which he now denies as valid) contained details that only the killer could have possibly known.
“While some may believe that justice has been served, it has not,” said Hernandez's lawyer, Harvey Fishbein, “and no one in this courtroom should feel good about what transpired."
“The defendant kept a terrible secret for 33 years,” the judge said. “His silence caused the Patz family indescribable anguish and served to compound their grief.”
Hernandez's lawyers plan to appeal the conviction.
[Photo: Wikimedia Commons]