NEW YORK—A former delicatessen worker who killed 6-year-old New York City boy Etan Patz in a 1979 slaying that helped raise national awareness about the plight of abducted children was sentenced on Tuesday to 25 years to life in prison.
Pedro Hernandez, 56, showed no emotion as he was handed the sentence for murder by Justice Maxwell Wiley in state court in Manhattan. Hernandez was also given 25 years to life for kidnapping, with both sentences to run concurrently. A jury found him guilty of the charges in February.
Patz vanished as he walked alone for the first time to a school bus stop in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood on May 25, 1979. He would become one of the first missing children to appear on the side of a milk carton seeking information.
For more than three decades, the case endured as one of the country’s most infamous missing child cases until police arrested Hernandez in May 2012 after receiving a tip.
Hernandez, who worked in a bodega near the bus stop, confessed to strangling the boy and then leaving his body in a box outside.
His lawyers argued that the admission was the result of police coercion as well as mental illness that made it difficult for Hernandez to separate fantasy from reality. Patz’s body was never found, leaving the confession as the key piece of evidence at trial.
The defense also pointed to another man, Jose Ramos, a convicted pedophile who was long considered a suspect in the crime. Ramos, who is in prison, had a relationship with a woman hired to walk Patz home from school.
A previous trial ended in a mistrial in 2015 when a single juror out of 12 refused to convict Hernandez after weeks of deliberations, prompting prosecutors to retry him.