Man who confessed to Etan Patz murder was prompted, detective testifies

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 24, 2015 3:42 PM

By Natasja Sheriff

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The man accused of kidnapping and killing 6-year-old Etan Patz three decades ago was prompted by police on details of the case before he confessed to the crimes, a police detective testified on Tuesday.

Pedro Hernandez, who is charged in the disappearance of the New York boy, did not know the time or date when the child vanished in 1979, New York Police Detective David Ramirez testified in state Supreme Court in Manhattan.

Hernandez confessed in 2012 to luring Patz into a Manhattan deli where he worked with a promise of a soda, strangling him, stuffing him in a bag and dumping him in an alley, police say.

Hernandez' defense attorneys say the confession was coerced and that he is mentally ill and suffers hallucinations.

Patz vanished as he walked alone for the first time to a school bus stop in his Manhattan neighborhood on May 25, 1979. His disappearance sparked a national movement to find missing children, with his picture one of the first to appear on milk cartons.

Jurors weighing kidnapping and murder charges against Hernandez have watched portions of the confession, made after six hours of police interrogation, on videotape.

Ramirez, under questioning on Tuesday by defense attorney Harvey Fishbein, testified that detectives told the suspect details of the boy's disappearance during the interrogation, before his confession and before they began video-taping his account.

Along with not knowing the time or date of the disappearance, Hernandez also did not know there was a bus stop near the deli where he worked, the detective said. The deli was in the same Manhattan neighborhood as the Patz family's apartment.

Patz has never been found. He was declared dead in 2001.

Hernandez, 54, was questioned and arrested in 2012 after police got a tip that he had confessed to the crime to a church prayer group in New Jersey, where he was living.

His defense attorneys say the blame belongs to another man, Jose Antonio Ramos, who for many years was a prime suspect in the case. Ramos is a convicted child molester in prison in Pennsylvania.

Defense attorneys say they have evidence that neighbors of Ramos positively identified Patz as a boy seen in the Manhattan apartment building with Ramos at the time of the boy's disappearance.

(Editing by Andrew Hay and Alan Crosby)