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Etan Patz Murder Case: Retrial About to Begin for Suspect in 1979 N.Y.C. Disappearance

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Louis Lanzano/AP

Jury selection is underway in the retrial of Pedro Hernandez, the New York City man accused of murdering 6-year-old Etan Patz, who disappeared in 1979 in a high-profile case.

According to court records obtained by PEOPLE, jury selection began Tuesday and opening statements are slated for Wednesday morning before Justice Maxwell Wiley in Manhattan Supreme Court.

Hernandez, 55, was tried in Patz’s death last year, but when three weeks of deliberations resulted in a deadlocked jury, the judge declared a mistrial.

The case has fascinated the public ever since the little boy went missing from Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood. Formal murder charges weren’t filed in the case until 2012, when Hernandez allegedly confessed to investigators that he lured the boy into the bodega where he worked by promising him a soda before killing him in the store’s basement and disposing of his remains in a dumpster.

Hernandez was 18 at the time. He allegedly told police he strangled the child before placing his body in a garbage bag.

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Detectives did not interview Hernandez during their initial investigation into Patz’s disappearance. But investigators allege that for years, Hernandez told his relatives about how he had murdered a child in 1981.

According to court records, it was Hernandez’s brother-in-law, Jose Lopez, who initially tipped off police to his alleged involvement in Patz’s disappearance and murder. Lopez called police in 2004 with information about Hernandez’s criminal claims, and then approached authorities again in 2012, prior to Hernandez’s alleged confession.

Police say that when Hernandez allegedly confessed, he provided investigators with incriminating details.

Patz’s body has never been recovered.

Hernandez’s lawyer says Hernandez has an IQ of 67. He has taken anti-psychotic medication for years and allegedly experiences hallucinations.

Soon after his arrest, doctors diagnosed Hernandez with schizotypal personality disorder, a mental disorder characterized by severe social anxiety and paranoia. During his first trial, a psychiatrist who is an expert in determining the reliability of confessions testified that relying on Hernandez’s statements would be “profoundly unsafe” without corroborating physical evidence.

Hernandez’s lawyer has long maintained his client had nothing to do with Patz’s disappearance.

His defense has long pointed the finger at Jose Ramos, a convicted Pennsylvania child molester who dated a woman who walked Patz to school. Ramos never faced criminal charges and has consistently denied involvement in Patz’s death, according to the Associated Press.