Latest Etan Patz Suspect: Real Killer or Another False Alarm?


Is Pedro Hernandez really guilty of killing young Etan Patz in 1979? New York Times columnist Jim Dwyer says the suspect had been in custody for barely a day, after decades of false starts, and the publicity engine was outracing the investigation or filing of charges. “People heard the word 'confession' and they think that's it, the case is solved,” a law enforcement official said. If this was a baseball game, we would be in the first inning,” the official said. “He is lucid, he's persuasive. But there is not a lot of corroborating information.”

Although charges may come today, the attitude among prosecutors was that while Hernandez had told a compelling story, there was no need to rush, and good reasons to be cautious. In 1932, more than 200 people came forward to confess that they had kidnapped the baby son of aviators Charles and Anne Lindbergh. It was around that time that police started keeping secret a few facts about a crime, as a way of weeding out people who felt compelled to claim that they had done something they had not. Whether such details exist in the Patz case is not known. Why would a man with no known history of pedophilia or murderous impulses lure a boy into a bodega basement and strangle him? “He doesn't give any motivation in the statement,” the official said. “The admission was totally unsolicited.”

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