Etan Patz jury deliberates fate of New Jersey man accused of murder

Jurors begin deliberations in the murder trial of a New Jersey man accused of killing Etan Patz, 6

A New York jury on Wednesday began deliberations in the trial of a New Jersey man accused of abducting and killing 6-year-old Etan Patz nearly 36 years ago - one of the nation's most high-profile missing child cases.

The jury of seven men and five women received the case after hearing more than two months of testimony in the trial of Pedro Hernandez, 54, who was arrested in 2012 and charged in Etan’s disappearance. Etan vanished from his SoHo neighborhood on May 25, 1979, when his mother let him walk on his own to the bus stop.

The boy’s body was never found. He was declared dead in 2001.

Jurors met for about 90 minutes Wednesday and will resume Thursday.

Before deliberations began, jurors listened to two full days of closing arguments from Assistant Dist. Atty. Joan Illuzzi-Orbon and defense attorney Harvey Fishbein.

Fishbein said Hernandez had a low IQ, could not always tell truth from fiction and was tricked into confessing by police who pretended to be his friends. He argued that the more likely culprit was a convicted child molester, Jose Ramos, who was dating one of Etan’s babysitters at the time Etan vanished.

Illuzzi-Orbon, in her summation of the case, said there was no evidence linking Ramos to the crime and then replayed portions of Hernandez’s videotaped confession to police. She also reviewed testimony of witnesses who said Hernandez had confessed to them that he had killed a boy in New York.

Hernandez, of Maple Shade, N.J., was 18 and working at a corner store in SoHo where Etan last was seen. After his arrest, he told police he lured the boy into the store basement with promises of a soda, then strangled him and left the body in a box in a SoHo alley.

After Etan’s disappearance, his parents became active in efforts to improve national tracing of missing children. Their son’s face was one of the first to appear on milk cartons as part of the improved tracing movement.

President Reagan opened the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 1984 and proclaimed May 25, the anniversary of Etan’s disappearance, Missing Children’s Day.

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