Jury set to hear videotaped confession in New York boy's murder

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 10, 2015 9:50 AM

By Natasja Sheriff

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The videotaped confession of a man accused of murdering Etan Patz was to be played for a jury on Tuesday during his trial in the disappearance of the 6-year-old boy in 1979 that sparked a national movement to find missing children.

Pedro Hernandez, 54, confessed to police he lured the boy to the basement of the Soho deli where he worked, strangled him, placed him in a trash bag and dumped the body in an alley. He went on trial Jan. 30 for kidnapping and murder in state court.

His own words will be heard by the jury a day after his ex-wife Daisy Rivera testified that years ago she found what she described as a "piece of a poster" in a box belonging to Hernandez. She indicated it was from a poster widely distributed after Patz disappeared while walking alone to the school bus for the first time. 

"It had a picture of a little boy, a little white boy," she said.

When she confronted Hernandez about the photo, he became nervous and explained that the child had vanished near his workplace in New York City and that he was familiar with the family, she testified. 

Hernandez's defense aimed to cast doubt on Rivera's credibility, citing inconsistencies between her testimony about the photograph on Monday and statements she made earlier before a grand jury and to police investigators. 

Rivera, who had two children with Hernandez before they separated in 1985, said during their marriage he was controlling and had mood swings. 

Another prosecution witness, Hernandez's brother-in-law, testified Monday he had heard about another Hernandez confession long ago and tried to alert the authorities repeatedly since 2000. 

Jose Lopez, 61, said he was not present at the religious retreat in New Jersey in 1979 when Hernandez allegedly confessed to killing a boy. The leader of the group, Thomas Rivera, and his wife, Mary, later told Lopez about the confession. 

Lopez said he didn't go to the police right away because, "It was like a puzzle to me, I had to put every piece together before I could do anything about it."  

He first called a hotline for missing children in 2000 and again in 2004 but nothing happened. He again called the police in May 2012 after seeing on the news that authorities were excavating a basement in Soho, he testified. Hernandez was arrested a short time later.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Doina Chiacu)