Pedro Hernandez, 54, is charged with second-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping

By Tara Fowler
Updated April 15, 2015 12:30 PM
Credit: Stanley K. Patz/AP

As attorneys wrapped up their closing arguments in the Etan Patz murder trial Tuesday, prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon asked jurors to deliver justice for the 6-year-old boy.

Etan was walking to the bus stop alone for the first time when he disappeared in 1979. For decades, no one knew what happened to the boy, who became the first missing child to be featured on milk cartons.

And then, one day in 2012, a man named Pedro Hernandez allegedly confessed to Etan’s brutal murder, describing in detail how he strangled the 6-year-old, packed his body into a box and dumped him in the trash.

But Hernandez’s lawyers have argued that the confession was false, a disturbing fantasy that was the product of his mind, nothing more.

“He has visions. He hears voices,” defense attorney Harvey Fishbein said in his opening remarks in January. “He cannot distinguish between what is real and what is not.”

But in her closing remarks on Tuesday, Illuzzi-Orbon insisted that Hernandez’s confession was real.

“Day after day he saw this beautiful little boy alone on that corner. One day he acted on an impulse he had and did something terrible to this little boy,” she told the court, The New York Times reports.

She emphasized that Hernandez, who worked at a store near Etan’s bus stop, never recanted his confession. Indeed, he told numerous people about the crime long before he ever told police, including his own ex-wife, who testified against him.

“The defendant never took any of it back,” Illuzzi-Orbon said. “He wants to unburden himself. He just doesn’t want to pay the price.”

She asked the jury to punish Hernandez: “Most people hope that justice can be done by some other people, some other place at some other time. You are the people. This is the place. And this is the time.”

But the defense pointed to another possible culprit: Jose A. Ramos, a convicted child molester who was long a suspect in the case. However, Illuzzi-Orbon shot down that theory. “Jose Ramos is a despicable pedophile, but that doesn’t mean he’s guilty of this crime,” she said.

Hernandez, 54, is charged with second-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping. The jury is expected to begin deliberations on Wednesday.

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