Etan Patz Case: Pedro Hernandez, man arrested in disappearance of NYC boy, to appear in court

Etan Patz, left, is seen alongside Pedro Hernandez, 51, who was arrested May 24, 2012 in the boy's 1979 disappearance.
CBS/Inside Edition
5/24: Etan Patz murder confession, convicted rapist exhonorated
Etan Patz(left); Pedro Hernandez, arrested Thursday, May 24, 2012, for the 1979 murder of the 6-year-old New York City boy

(CBS/AP) NEW YORK - Pedro Hernandez, a New Jersey man who police say confessed to choking 6-year-old New York City boy Etan Patz to death in 1979, is expected to make his first court appearance Friday.

Pictures: Man in custody in Etan Patz disappearance

Police say Hernandez, 51, of Maple Shade, N.J. was scheduled to be arraigned Friday. Hernandez was to be booked on a charge of second-degree murder in the slaying of the boy, who vanished on his way to school in his lower Manhattan neighborhood, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

He was arrested on Thursday.

Hernandez, who had worked at a convenience store near Etan's home, confessed after hours of police questioning, Kelly said. Kelly said Hernandez told police he lured the boy to the convenience store with the promise of a soda, then took him into the basement and choked him.

"He was remorseful, and I think the detectives thought that it was a feeling of relief on his part," Kelly said. "We believe that this is the individual responsible for the crime."

For most of the past decade, the investigation focused on Jose Ramos, a convicted child molester now in prison in Pennsylvania. He had been dating Etan's baby sitter. In 2000, authorities dug up Ramos' former basement in lower Manhattan, but nothing turned up.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. announced in 2010 that his office was renewing the investigation into the case. A few weeks ago, investigators excavated another basement, down the street from the Patz apartment. The search found no human remains.

Investigators questioned a 75-year-old handyman who had a workspace in the cellar in 1979. But he was not named as a suspect and denied any involvement in the boy's disappearance.

Hernandez, who moved to New Jersey shortly after the boy vanished, was picked up there late Wednesday and was questioned Thursday at the Manhattan district attorney's office. He had been tied to the case in the past investigators recently received a phone call with a new tip, according to the law enforcement official.

Neighbors in Maple Shade, N.J., said Hernandez lived with his wife and a daughter who attends college.

Sandy-haired Etan vanished while walking alone to his bus stop for the first time, two blocks from his home in New York's busy SoHo neighborhood, which was a working-class part of the city back then but is now a chic area of boutiques and galleries.

Complete coverage of the Etan Patz case on Crimesider