Day 11 of deliberations in Etan Patz murder trial in New York

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 29, 2015 10:47 AM

By Natasja Sheriff

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Jurors in the murder trial of a man who confessed to killing Etan Patz, one of the first missing children whose pictures appeared on milk cartons, began their 11th day of deliberations on Wednesday.

Jurors were considering murder and kidnapping charges against former deli worker Pedro Hernandez, 54, in the 1979 disappearance of Patz, who was last seen in his Soho neighborhood in Manhattan.

The 6-year-old boy vanished on his first walk alone to a school bus stop on May 25, 1979. The highly publicized case rattled New York City and the nation, and ultimately changed the way the United States responds to missing and abducted children.

In 2012, Hernandez confessed to police that he lured Patz into the basement of the Soho deli where he worked with the promise of a soda, then strangled him and left him in a box in an alley.

That now-disputed confession was the heart of the murder and kidnapping trial now in the hands of the jury at state Supreme Court in Manhattan.

Hernandez's lawyers say he is mentally ill and the confession was coerced.

Prosecutors say Hernandez is a cunning criminal and the statement to police was voluntary.

If convicted of any of the three charges against him, Hernandez faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. He is charged with kidnapping, intentional murder and felony murder. In felony murder, the victim is killed during the commission of another crime, in this case kidnapping.

Hernandez's attorneys have said the real culprit in Patz's death is an earlier suspect in the case, Jose Ramos, whose girlfriend walked Patz and his friends home from school during a brief school bus strike. Ramos, a convicted child molester, is now in a Pennsylvania prison.

Prosecutors say investigators never found enough evidence to charge Ramos.

Neither Ramos nor Hernandez testified in the trial.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jonathan Oatis)