Jurors see confession video in 1979 Etan Patz disappearance
NEW YORK (AP) — Jurors watched intently Tuesday as a videotaped confession of a man who said he killed 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979 played during the suspect’s murder trial.
Pedro Hernandez, of New Jersey, admitted in hours of video to choking Etan, shoving his body in a plastic bag and dumping it with some curbside trash a few blocks away. His attorney maintains that the confession is fiction, dreamed up by a mentally ill man.
“I was nervous. My legs were jumping. I wanted to let go, but I just couldn’t let go. I felt like something just took over me,” Hernandez said in the video. “I don’t know what to say. Something just took over me, and I was just choking him.”
Etan became one of the first missing children featured on milk cartons. His parents helped advocate for legislation that created a nationwide law enforcement framework to address such cases, and the anniversary of his disappearance became National Missing Children’s Day.
Hernandez was a teenage stock clerk at a convenience store a few blocks from where Etan was last seen on his way to school on May 25, 1979. It was Etan’s first time walking to school alone.
“I don’t know why I came up to him,” Hernandez says on the tape, calmly. “I just approached to him, and I asked him: ‘You want a soda?’ He didn’t say nothing to me, even when I was choking him. He didn’t kick. He didn’t do nothing. He just kind of stood there, and I just felt bad what I did.”
Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to killing Etan, whose body has never been found. His disappearance prompted an international search and spurred major changes in how law enforcement nationwide handle missing children reports.
In the tape, Hernandez also speaks about being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and taking medication for pain from an on-the-job injury from working at a dress factory in New Jersey.
The confession was played in September during a hearing on whether it could be used at trial. Some personal details about Hernandez’s life were removed after his attorney objected.
The clip shown Tuesday is one of three confession videos made after Hernandez was arrested following a tip in May 2012. The other videos were also expected to be played.