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Suspect Arrested In Etan Patz Kidnapping Case


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Audie Cornish. In New York City, a decades old missing child case may have been solved. In 1979, a 6-year-old boy named Etan Patz disappeared as he was walking to school. Thirty-three years later, almost to the day, police say they have a suspect under arrest and his confession. That suspect is Pedro Hernandez, now 51 years old.

RAY KELLY: In the years following Etan's disappearance, Hernandez had told a family member and others that he had, quote, "done a bad thing," and killed a child in New York.

CORNISH: That's New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. At a press conference late today, Commissioner Kelly announced that Hernandez is being charged with second-degree murder in the case. For more in this story, we go to Bob Hennelly of member station WNYC. Bob, you were at that press conference. Can you talk about the man under arrest? How did this arrest come about?

BOB HENNELLY, BYLINE: Well, Pedro Hernandez was 19 years old at the time of the crime. And it was 33 years ago that Etan disappeared. It surfaced for police when a tipster that the police would not identify called the missing persons line. And then police yesterday went down to interview Hernandez, who has subsequently moved to Maple Shade just right outside of Camden. And evidently, he was very cooperative. Discussion went on for some three hours and then the suspect voluntarily returned to New York where he remains in custody.

CORNISH: Now, this case was reopened in 2010. And just a few weeks ago, you had investigators excavating a basement in the neighborhood where Etan Patz disappeared from. Did they say today that the tip that led to this arrest came from that investigation earlier this year?

HENNELLY: No. Other than raising the profile of this - out of this case, there was no connection.

CORNISH: Now, police have also had over the years other suspects in the case, and did they say any reasons why they thought this particular confession from Pedro Hernandez was credible?

HENNELLY: Well, the specificity with which he described the crime, the fact that he told police that he lured Patz with a promise for soda into the basement of the bodega, his specific knowledge of the timing and circumstance and his - the general relief with which he - they spent a lot of time with him, so they got a sense of the man and circumstance.

CORNISH: What, if anything, did the police say about the reaction from the family of his victim?

HENNELLY: They were - they really didn't focus on that much. There was a sense of relief, of course. And the family did have some familiarity with the bodega. But, you know, this case had so gripped this city. Of course, Etan was the first child to be on a milk carton. And so it's just a - it stayed with the city ever since.

CORNISH: Lastly, Bob, can you talk a little bit about what happens from here? Where is Pedro Hernandez being held now, and what's next?

HENNELLY: He's in police custody. The investigation continues. But he has no criminal record according to Commissioner Kelly. And so he'll (unintelligible) process. The fact that all of this is on videotape and there is a written confession will certainly expedite it.

CORNISH: That's Bob Hennelly of member station WNYC in New York where a suspect has been arrested and charged with murder more than three decades after the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz. Bob, thank you so much for talking with us.

HENNELLY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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