When Will The Etan Patz Murder Trial Start? One Key Piece Of Evidence Will Underscore The Proceedings

In 1979, six-year-old Etan Patz disappeared on his way to the bus stop in his SoHo New York City neighborhood. We know now that Patz never made it to school that day, but what exactly happened to the six-year-old boy has remained a mystery for more than 40 years. Now, the confession to Patz's murder from Pedro Hernandez, a 53-year-old New Jersey resident, will play a crucial role in one of America's most famous missing-child cases. On Jan. 5 next year, jury selection will begin in the trial.

On Monday, New York State Supreme Court Justice Maxwell Wiley ruled that Hernandez's murder confession, captured on video by authorities in 2012, can be used in the upcoming murder trial. Considering that the prosecution lacks any physical evidence — including Patz's remains — incriminating Hernandez, the murder confession is crucial for the jury.

Hernandez, who pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping, reportedly made the confession in 2012 after six hours of questioning. His lawyer contends that Hernandez fabricated the confession to satisfy authorities, who failed to record the hours of questioning until Hernandez made a confession.

However, Wiley found that Hernandez understood his Miranda rights at the time and knowingly waived them — proving that authorities got the confession from Hernandez legally. The judge added that he came to his decision based on Hernandez's "basic ability to make his way in the world over a period of almost 40 years."

Hernandez, worked at a bodega in Patz's neighborhood, admitted to choking the six-year-old in the store's basement. He told authorities that while Patz was still alive, he placed his body into a plastic bag, then into a box, and later discarded the body on a nearby street.

Hernandez described the attack:

I was nervous; my legs were jumping. I wanted to let go, but I just couldn't let go. I felt like something just took over me. I don't know what to say. Something just took over me, and I was just choking him.

According to earlier reports, Hernandez also publicly confessed to harming a young child while attending church meetings in the early 1980s. In 2012, Hernandez's sister, Norma, told The New York Times that her brother confessed to a prayer group at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Camden, New Jersey — where Hernandez settled shortly after Patz's disappearance. "He was not the same," Norma Hernandez told The New York Times. She added that it was an unspoken yet open secret that her brother confessed to strangling a child during a meeting of the Camden prayer group, though the topic was never raised.

Patz's disappearance garnered unprecedented national attention. He became the literal poster-child for missing children in the United States, becoming the first child to appear on a milk carton. National Missing Children's Day, designated in 1983 by then-President Ronald Reagan, is also observed on the day that Patz disappeared: May 25.

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