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Retrial in 1979 NY child murder case set for 2016

04 august 2015, 12:29
0
People walk past a street shrine in New York to six-year-old Etan Patz in front of the building where suspect Pedro Hernandez confessed to having strangled the boy. ©AFP
People walk past a street shrine in New York to six-year-old Etan Patz in front of the building where suspect Pedro Hernandez confessed to having strangled the boy. ©AFP

A New York judge on Monday scheduled a retrial next year in the 1979 kidnapping and murder of a six-year-old boy that continues to haunt millions of American parents, AFP reports.

New York State Supreme Court Judge Maxwell Wiley granted time to a new prosecutor to get up to speed on the near four-decade-old case and said jury selection would begin on February 22, 2016.

In May, a 12-member jury could not agree to acquit or convict Pedro Hernandez of Etan Patz's kidnapping and murder.

Patz vanished after leaving home to walk alone to the bus stop to go to school on May 25, 1979. His body has never been found.

Hernandez has been in custody since 2012, when he confessed to police that he killed Patz in the basement of a New York grocery store before dumping his body out with the trash.

He later retracted his confession and pleaded not guilty at trial. He was neither acquitted nor sentenced when just one juror held out against the other 11 who were convinced of his guilt.

Patz's disappearance awakened Americans to the dangers of child abduction and fueled a generation of hyper-vigilant child rearing by parents terrified of letting their offspring out of their sight.

The defense argued that Hernandez had an IQ of 70, which would put him in the bottom two percent of the population, and that convicted sex offender Jose Ramos was the real culprit.

Prosecutors had no physical evidence to tie Hernandez to the crime. Patz's parents were only alerted to his disappearance when he failed to come home from school at the end of the day.

In 1983, then US president Ronald Reagan declared the anniversary of his disappearance National Missing Children's Day.

Patz was declared legally dead in 2001.


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