Pedro Hernandez, 52, the Camden, New Jersey, man who was arrested on May 23, 2012, after police got wind that he told people that he was responsible for the death of Etan Kalil Patz, 6, has retracted his confession. Hernandez’ lawyer now argues that the confession not only contains questionable claims, but was the result of more than seven hours of grilling by police of a mentally unstable man.
The day after Hernandez’ arrest, police commissioner Ray Kelly made an announcement: “An individual now in custody has made statements to NYPD detectives implicating himself in the disappearance and death of Etan Patz 33 years ago. We expect to provide further details later today.” Two days after the arrest police had charged Hernandez with second-degree murder in the death of Etan Patz. A sure sign of trouble to some, however, was that Hernandez, who suffered from mental health issues, did not enter a plea and was being held in a mental ward at Bellevue Hospital.
Now Hernandez’ lawyer Harvey Fishbein is asking that the entire confession be thrown out as false, and that the murder charges be dismissed. In his statement for the court Fishbein wrote, “No evidence or witnesses have been found corroborating any of the few facts.” Though police claim that they received tips, and did search several times the SoHo bodega where Hernandez claimed to have killed the child, it is possible that, despite prosecutor’s statements, in the end their whole case really does hinge on Hernandez’ confession; the confession of a mentally unstable person, who at some point fixated on Etan’s case.
Fishbein also wrote, “The indictment is based solely on statements allegedly made by my client, who has, in the past, been repeatedly diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia, and who has, over the last six months, been found to suffer from schizotypal personality disorder, which is characterized by, among other things, unusual perceptual experiences, commonly referred to as hallucinations.”
Etan disappeared in Manhattan’s in SoHo neghborhood on his way to the school bus on May 25, 1979, and is believed dead. Prosecutors always maintained that Etan’s sitter’s boyfriend, Jose Antonio Ramos, had abducted the child. Ramos, who was serving a 20-year sentence for an unrelated child molestation conviction in Pennsylvania, was found responsible in a 2004 civil case in absentia for Etan’s death.
Prosecutors in Manhattan, who have insisted up to this point that they have enough evidence to convict Hernandez without his confession, declined to press charges against Ramos, who was released from prison last month, in March 2013. They have not commented on these most recent developments in the Pedro Hernandez case.