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Pedro Hernandez Arraigned On Murder Charge In 1979 Etan Patz Disappearance

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A New Jersey man who has been charged with murder in the 1979 disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz was arraigned on a 2nd-degree murder charge Friday evening in the decades-old case that rocked America.

Pedro Hernandez, a former convenience store stock clerk at a Bodega in Patz's SoHo neighborhood, was arrested in the boy's murder on Thursday.

1010 WINS' Terry Sheridan With More On The Story


Wearing an orange jumpsuit and seated with his hands behind his back, Hernandez was arraigned from his bedside at Bellevue Hospital via teleconference. He did not enter a plea.

Hernandez's court-appointed lawyer, Harvey Fishbein, said his client was taken to the hospital on his way to arraignment because of medication issues, 1010 WINS' Terry Sheridan reported. Hernandez is on suicide watch after apparently making comments about wanting to kill himself.

Hernandez also suffers from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and is prone to hallucinations, according to his lawyer.  The lawyer also asked a bail hearing be postponed pending a psychiatric evaluation ordered by the judge.  So Hernandez will be back in court on June 25.

"This is the beginning of the legal process, not the end.  There is much investigative and other work ahead, and it will be conducted in a measured and careful manner. I want to thank our partners in law enforcement, particularly the NYPD and the FBI, for their unparalleled perseverance over the last three decades," Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr. said.

Authorities are considering whether to excavate the basement of the old deli, now an eyeglasses shop. The police will also retrace garbage truck routes from the late 1970s that could lead to a search of landfills to try to find any of the boy's remains.

Jose Lopez, Hernandez's brother-in-law, denied being the informant, but a source told CBS News he is the family member who called police a few weeks ago, CBS 2's Sean Hennessey reported.

Police said Hernandez told a family member, and others, that he had killed a child in New York, but never mentioned a name. With Hernandez behind bars, Lopez said he hopes the parents of Etan Patz aren't wondering anymore.

"They don't have to suffer anymore in waiting whether he's alive or what happened or who killed him," Lopez said.

The murder case was stunning to Hernandez's pastor and sickening to the suspect's wife and daughter, who left the courthouse without saying a word.

"It was a very emotional time. They were devastated, emotionally...they were crying," Rev. George Bowen said.

Hernandez told investigators that 33 years ago Friday, he lured the little boy into the store, choked him, put his body in a plastic bag and threw it out with the trash, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

"Mr. Hernandez made a promise of a soda and led him down to the stairs into the basement where he was choked," Kelly said.

Hernandez left his job days after the little boy disappeared and was never questioned.

"I can't tell you why, 33 years ago, he wasn't questioned," Kelly said.

Crime scene investigators outside of a store at the intersection of Prince and West Broadway on Friday, May 25, 2012 (credit: Monica Miller/WCBS 880)

WCBS 880's Sean Adams reports


On Wednesday, police went to Hernandez's New Jersey home and questioned him and brought him back to New York where he spoke to detectives for more than three hours, Kelly said, adding that police have a written and signed confession to the 1979 disappearance and killing.

Patz memorial
Makeshift memorial outside SoHo building where Etan Patz may have been killed. (credit: Monica Miller/WCBS 880)

Police have no physical evidence or a motive for the killing, something legal experts said could be difficult when prosecuting the case.

WCBS 880's Steve Scott Gets Legal Perspective From Ron Kuby


(Download the full interview by clicking here)

"The only thing you have, as of right now, is a freestanding confession without any corroboration whatsoever," defense attorney Ron Kuby, who does not represent Hernandez, told WCBS 880's Steve Scott. "And while juries to tend to believe confessions, they want corroboration and they want a motive. And the fact is, at least according to what's been publicly announced, Mr. Hernandez claimed that for absolutely no reason, he grabbed a total stranger, a small child, lured him downstairs, murdered him, then disposed of the body."

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