Right now a NYC jury is deliberating on whether several confessions by Pedro Hanandez to being the kidnapper and murderer of Etan Patz can be believed. Etan was a sweet faced young 6 yr old when he disappeared from SoHo on May 25th in 1979.
On the day he disappeared Etan took his first unaccompanied walk to his school bus stop 2 blocks away from where he lived. His mother watched him walk the first block and cross the street to the second block and then walked inside, secure in in his safety. He never reached his bus stop and was never seen again.
The disappearance of Etan had profound influence on how the cases of missing children have been carried out since. The day he disappeared is now National Missing children’s Day and the Global Missing Children’s Network (GMCN) has been set up to bring all law enforcement and other bodies together to track missing children internationally and share best practices in following up disappearances and abductions.
These days it is common practice to put pictures of missing children on milk cartons. Pictures of Etan on posters and on milk cartons was the first time this was done to help track a child. Virtually the whole ‘stranger danger’ campaigns sprang up after his disappearance and parents now routinely accompany their children to bustops, something which wasn’t common prior to Etan disappearing.
There are 2 suspects for Etan’s murder. One is Jose Ramos, a known child sex offender, who has spent almost all of his time in prison since Etan’s disappearance on unrealted child sex offence charges but there has never been sufficient evidence to support a full prosecution. He was in the area on the day Etan went missing.
The second is Pedro Hernandez, a man with a low IQ and who suffers from hallucinations who has confessed several times to killing Etan. But the accounts he has given have varied and there is legitmate doubt about whether his confessions are real or made up.
Right now the jury has been deliberating for 8 days and the nature of their ongoing requests for additonal information indicate they are having a hard time deciding. All previous attempts to find out what happeded to Etan hav founded on the overall lack of physical evidence sufficient to convict anyone. Even if Etan’s murderer is never found he has profoundly influenced the whole issue of child abduction for the better. What is in place today to help missing and abducted children is a great memorial to a sweet and lovely child.