Almost 40 years after Etan Patz disappeared while walking to his school bus in SoHo, a jury has decided whether Pedro Hernandez is the man responsible for his death.
Etan, who was Jewish, was one of the first missing children to be featured on the side of milk cartons.
Etan vanished from a Soho street the first time he walked alone to the school bus stop on May 25, 1979. Hernandez was a convenience store clerk in Patz' neighborhood when the boy, who was just six-years-old, went missing in the summer of 1979. Hernandez' attorney, Harvey Fishbein, says Hernandez is mentally ill and falsely confessed.
Defense lawyer Harvey Fishbein argued in his summation that the real killer is convicted and now imprisoned child molester Jose Ramos, 73, who was a longtime suspect in the case.
And as creepy as it sounds, the convicted killer reportedly didn't show ANY signs of emotion as the jury read their verdict, according to USA Today.
Hernandez's first trial, in 2015, ended with a hung jury after 18 days of deliberations.
"When I choked him, I tried to let go but my body was shaking and jumping at the same time", he said.
Pedro Hernandez, 55, was acquitted of intentional second-degree murder in the decades-old case, meaning jurors did not believe he meant to kill the little boy, but he still faces up to life in prison.
Hernandez told police he killed Etan in the store's basement by strangling him. His body has never been found. National Missing Children's Day was established on May 25th, the anniversary of Patz's disappearance. "I've known for a long time that this man Pedro Hernandez is guilty of doing something really awful so many years ago", he said.
The long-awaited verdict had one prosecutor quoting the Bible - "justice shall you pursue", Assistant District Attorney Joel Seidemann said - and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. declaring that Hernandez' guilt had been "affirmed beyond all lasting doubt". Hernandez worked at the bodega near the bus stop where Patz was last seen and gave an unexpected confession to investigators in 2012.
"For me, the whole case kind of hinges on mental health, which factors into what I think are the false confessions - or at least the likelihood of false confessions being made by him", Sirois said in an interview with the New York Post. Medical records indicated that Hernandez suffers from schizophrenia, a fact that provided his primary defense in the second, three-month long trial.
But prosecutors suggested Hernandez faked or exaggerated his symptoms.
Ramos never faced criminal charges and has consistently denied having anything to do with Etan's death. The final verdict was handed down by a jury around noon on Valentine's Day, nine days after the deliberations began.
"It's hard to explain away 30 years of confessions", the prosecutor said.