Pedro Hernandez, the 56-year-old former store clerk convicted of kidnapping and killing 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979, was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for the notorious murder, PEOPLE confirms.
Hernandez’s sentence was handed down on Tuesday afternoon — more than three decades after the New York City boy was slain. After deliberating for nine days, jurors returned a guilty verdict in mid-February.
It was the second time Hernandez was tried for the murder; his 2015 trial ended with a deadlocked jury.
According to Fox reporter Jessica Formoso, Stanley Patz, Etan’s father, spoke before Hernandez’s sentencing, telling the killer, “I will never forgive you. The God you pray to will never forgive you.”
Etan disappeared in 1979 as he walked to his school bus stop in downtown Manhattan. He was among the first missing children pictured on milk cartons, and the anniversary of his May 25 disappearance became National Missing Children’s Day.
At trial, prosecutors said that Hernandez “staked out” Etan for several days before strangling him to death.
Hernandez had pleaded not guilty, maintaining his innocence even after confessing to the crime. On Tuesday, his lawyers once again claimed their client is innocent.
Etan’s remains have never been found.
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Hernandez’ lawyers, who plan to appeal his conviction, argued at trial their client is mentally ill and that his admissions to police were fabricated.
Hernandez was 18 when Etan disappeared. He was charged with murder charges in 2012, after telling investigators he lured the boy into the bodega where he worked by promising him a soda.
Hernandez reportedly told police he killed Etan in the store’s basement by strangling him. He said he put his body in a garbage bag, which he put in a dumpster.
Authorities never interviewed Hernandez during their initial investigation into Etan’s disappearance. But they have said that for years, Hernandez told his relatives and ex-wife about how he had murdered a child in 1981.
It was Hernandez’s brother-in-law, Jose Lopez, who initially tipped off police, leading to his arrest. Lopez called police in 2004 with information about Hernandez and then approached authorities again in 2012, just before Hernandez’s confession.
Authorities have said that when Hernandez confessed, he provided investigators with details only the killer would have known.