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Murder suspect’s ex-wife says he kept image of Etan Patz

February 9, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) — The ex-wife of a man accused of killing 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979 testified Monday that she found a torn piece of a missing poster with the boy’s image in a shoebox belonging to her husband, years after he told her he had strangled someone in New York.

Daisy Rivera said that she came across the shoebox in the 1980s, when they were moving back into her parents’ house. She says she noticed the photo of the boy and thought Pedro Hernandez had another child he never told her about.

“He explained to me that child had disappeared within the area where he worked at in New York City,” she said. “And I asked him, disappeared how?”

He told her that he knew the family and that’s why he had the photo. The image was part of Etan’s missing poster.

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.

Before they were married, Hernandez told her in Spanish that he had strangled someone who had offended him while working in New York, she testified. He didn’t want to lie to her and he wanted forgiveness so he told her, she testified. But Hernandez didn’t elaborate, and Rivera didn’t ask about it, and she didn’t tell police, she said.

Rivera said Monday she didn’t consider whether the photo was linked to the story he told her.

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. He moved back to New Jersey shortly after and was never considered a suspect until 2012, when a relative called police with a tip. Hernandez confessed to choking the boy and tossing his body with curbside trash. He has since pleaded not guilty. His attorneys say his confession is fiction.

The two met when Rivera was 16, after Hernandez moved back to New Jersey from New York. They got married after she became pregnant and have two children together, Peter, 31, and Natalie, 30. They divorced more than two decades ago and had a contentious relationship, she testified.

The trial is expected to last three months.

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