Etan Patz: 35 Years Later, Milk Carton Murder Trial Begins

Opening statements began for accused murderer Pedro Hernandez in regards to perhaps one of America’s most famous missing children cases, Etan Patz.

Etan Patz was only six years old when he disappeared from his lower Manhattan neighborhood on May 25, 1979, after walking by himself to the school bus stop for the first time.

Etan’s disappearance gained national attention and sparked the missing child movement after his face was one of the first missing children featured on the back of milk cartons.

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan declared May 25, the anniversary of Patz’ disappearance, National Missing Children’s Day.

It seemed as though the high-profile case had gone cold with the majority of the focus being on Jose Ramos, the boyfriend of Etan’s babysitter at that time.

Ramos, a convicted child molester who was never formally charged or prosecuted for the disappearance of Etan due to lack of evidence, was the prime suspect for decades. In 2004 he lost a civil trial to the Patz family but he continued to deny responsibility.

According to MSN, it was Pedro Hernandez’ brother in law who alerted authorities in 2012 that Mr. Hernandez had been alluding for years to family and friends his involvement in Etan Patz’ disappearance.

Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon stood before jurors, Etan’s father Stan, sister Shira, and Hernandez’ wife Rosemary today and described the little boy as a “tiny man with a big heart.” Etan’s mother was not present for opening arguments, but is expected to testify in the trial that is anticipated to take up to three months.

Illuzzi-Orbon encouraged the jury to remember a simpler time and the purity of young Etan.

“This is the moment we’re about to step back into, and into a crime that changed the face of this city forever, a cautionary tale and a defining moment, a loss of innocence. This was the moment in time when Etan Patz lived, and it’s the moment in time when Etan Patz died.”

According to New York Daily News Hernandez stated in a videotaped confession during the 2012 investigation, “Something just took over me and I choked him.”

At the time of Etan’s disappearance, a then 18-year-old Hernandez was working in a neighborhood bodega nearby. He is said to have confessed to luring the boy into the bodega and strangling him.

Etan Patz’ body was never found. He was declared dead in 2001.

Mr. Hernandez has since recanted his testimony, and his defense attorneys intend to use his low IQ — less than 70 — and his history of hallucinations as an explanation for the initial confession.

[Image courtesy of The Telegraph ]