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Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
# Etan Patz
Trial begins of man accused of kidnapping and killing this boy in 1979
The situation was one of America’s most famous missing person’s cases.

Etan Patz AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

THE MAN ACCUSED of kidnapping and killing a six-year-old boy in one of America’s most famous missing child cases went on trial in New York today, 35 years after the crime.

Pedro Hernandez, 53, is accused of luring Etan Patz into the basement of the grocery store where he worked, before killing and dumping his body out with the trash on May 25, 1979.

Patz vanished after leaving his parents’ Manhattan townhouse to walk alone for the first time to the bus stop to go to school.

Missing NYC Boy AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

The case became a national cause celebre and awakened millions of Americans to the dangers of child abduction, fueling a generation of hyper-vigilant child rearing by parents terrified of letting their offspring out of sight.

Hernandez was arrested on a tip off in 2012 and confessed to police to killing the boy.

Not guilty plea

He has since recanted his confession and pleads not guilty.

His lawyer Harvey Fishbein says his client suffers from mental illness and has “borderline-to-mild mental retardation.”

Hernandez sat quietly in packed New York State Supreme Court, dressed smartly in trousers, and a pin-stripped shirt and tie.

Legal experts say the prosecutors will have a hard time to prove their case, in a trial could last until April.

Judge Maxwell Wiley has already presided over a three-week process to select the 12-person jury who will hear the case.

Missing NYC Boy AP / Press Association Images 2012 file photo of Pedro Hernandez AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Police are understood to have struggled to find supporting evidence against Hernandez.

Few clues were ever found to Etan’s disappearance in the SoHo neighborhood where he lived with his parents and disappeared.

His father was a photographer and the boy was the first missing child to be featured on milk cartons as part of a national search.

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

Etan was declared legally dead in 2001.

- © AFP, 2015

Read: Confessor in Etan Patz murder has a ‘history of hallucinations’>