The confessed killer of six-year-old Etan Patz, whose disappearance exactly 33 years ago sparked New York's biggest modern crime mystery, was hospitalized ahead of appearing in court for the first time Friday, AFP reported.
While media outlets in New York City said Pedro Hernandez, 51, was on suicide watch and had been monitored permanently overnight, a spokeswoman for the New York Police Department said Hernandez had been taken to Bellevue Hospital for a pre-existing condition.
Hernandez was due to make his first appearance before a state judge in Manhattan Supreme Court later in the day. He was expected to be charged with second degree murder.
Patz vanished without a trace on May 25, 1979, while walking alone to his bus stop for the first time, two blocks from his home in New York's busy SoHo neighborhood, which was a working-class part of the city back then but is now a chic area of boutiques and galleries.
Police conducted an exhaustive search. Thousands of fliers were plastered around the city, buildings canvassed, hundreds of people interviewed.
Etan's parents, Stan and Julie Patz, were reluctant to move or even change their phone number in case their son tried to reach out. They still live in the same apartment. They have endured decades of false leads and a lack of hard evidence.
Late on Thursday, New York police Commissioner Ray Kelly announced that Hernandez had confessed to strangling Patz after luring him “with the promise of a soda” to the basement of a grocery store where he worked, close to the school bus stop.
“He then led him into the basement of the bodega, choked him there and disposed of the body by placing him in a plastic bag and placing it in the trash,” Kelly said, according to AFP, adding that the boy's remains are almost certain never to be recovered.
The arrest and confession were a shock in a case that has repeatedly run into dead ends. Just last month, a joint New York Police Department-FBI team dug up a basement of another building in the street where Patz lived, but apparently found nothing of significance.
Hernandez worked right in the same neighborhood where Patz lived and disappeared, but he was never a suspect in a mammoth investigation.
Kelly said a tip broke open the case, noting Hernandez had been living quietly in New Jersey with his wife and teenage daughter and had no criminal record.
Following the media frenzy over last month's search of the basement, a tipster came forward, Kelly said, and told police that Hernandez had talked about killing a child.
He had “told family and others that he had ‘done a bad thing and killed a child in New York,’” Kelly was quoted by AFP as having said.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)