The murdered 6-year-old's father tells PEOPLE he expects the retrial of Pedro Hernandez to go "more smoothly" – and former jurors share their stories

By Christine Pelisek
Updated August 03, 2015 09:10 PM
Credit: Stanley K. Patz/AP

The retrial of disabled factory worker Pedro Hernandez in the cold case murder of 6-year-old Etan Patz is scheduled for early next year. Justice Maxwell Wiley of State Supreme Court in Manhattan scheduled jury selection in the widely publicized case for February 22.

“We are going to go through the whole thing over again,” Etan’s father, Stan, tells PEOPLE. “I think the second trial will go much more quickly and much more smoothly unless the defense has strange variations they can present.”

Etan vanished while walking two blocks from his parents’ loft to a bus stop near a bodega in the SoHo district of New York City on Memorial Day 1979. His murder remained unsolved for more than 30 years until May 2012 when police announced they arrested Hernandez, who at the time of Etan’s disappearance was an 18-year-old high school dropout and stock clerk at the bodega. Some observers, including Stan Patz, were initially skeptical about his arrest and believed the more likely suspect was Jose Ramos, a known pedophile who knew an employee of the Patz family.

Because the boy’s body was never found, the trial against Hernandez centered on a series of alleged confessions he gave to friends, members of a prayer group, his first wife and later to the police and prosecutors. During one police interview, Hernandez described how he strangled Etan, packed him up in a box and dumped him in the trash. He later allegedly led police to the neighborhood and pointed out where he had left the boy’s body.

Defense attorneys argued that Hernandez, 54, was pressured by the police and made up the confession. Hernandez, they argued, suffers from schizotypal personality disorder, a disorder that muddies your sense of fact and fiction.

Jurors in the previous trial spent four months together and 18 days of deliberation but couldn’t reach a verdict, and on May 8, Justice Wiley declared a mistrial. In the end, there was one holdout.

“Ultimately I couldn’t find enough evidence that was not circumstantial to convict,” juror Adam Sirois told reporters after the verdict. “I couldn t get there.”

“The 11 to 1 vote shows how strong his argument was,” Jennifer O’Connor, Juror #10, tells PEOPLE. “He had ample opportunity to change people’s minds. The proof is in the pudding. He would say, ‘You guys haven’t convinced me,’ but he wasn’t interested in being convinced.”

“It is a really sad story and we worked really hard and long hours to bring justice to the family and unfortunately it didn’t happen,” Alia Dahhan, the jury forewoman, tells PEOPLE. “We jurors have this connection. We are going to have it forever.”

For Stan Patz, who sat with a few of the former jurors during Monday’s hearing, he says he just wants the long ordeal to end.

“I looked forward to the first trial because I thought that would be the end of it,” he says. “It provided answers for me and I thought it would be the end of interviews, crazy phone calls, people showing up with their crazy theories. We really want to get this thing behind us. It has been a very long ordeal and I hope the second trial will finally do that. There was one odd person in the group last time. There can also be an odd person in this group, one or more.”

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