Etan Patz suspect recants

Dec. 12, 2012 at 6:12 PM
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NEW YORK, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- The attorney for the mentally ill New York bodega worker who allegedly confessed to the 1979 kidnapping and killing of Etan Patz said his client is recanting.

Attorney Harvey Fishbein said Pedro Hernandez, 51, made "a false confession," the New York Daily News reported. The confession is the only evidence prosecutors have against Hernandez, Fishbein said.

Hernandez, who is bipolar and suffers auditory and visual hallucinations, pleaded innocent during a hearing Thursday. He has been in custody since May.

Hernandez, who now lives in Maple Shade, N.J., was a clerk at a convenience store near 6-year-old Etan's home when he disappeared on his way to a school bus stop -- the first time the boy's parents ever let him walk the route alone. The case rocked New York City and reverberated across the nation, forever changing how missing children cases are handled. Etan was the first child ever put on the back of a milk carton and the day he disappeared, May 25, is now National Missing Children Day.

Prosecutors told CBS they would move forward with the case despite there being no evidence except the confession. A box containing children's underwear and toy cars was found at Hernandez' home but couldn't be conclusively linked to Etan.

Police long suspected another man, Jose Ramos, a convicted child molester who was dating Etan's babysitter at the time of his disappearance. Ramos was found responsible for Etan's death in a civil case in 2004 but prosecutors said they lacked evidence to bring criminal charges.

A judge has ordered a mental health evaluation for Hernandez to see whether he is fit to stand trial.

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