Etan Patz: Investigators have a tough road to conviction

PHOTO: Pedro Hernandez sits during his hospital arraignment, May 25, 2012.As I continue following the case of Etan Patz, I am struck by a few different thoughts.

First, it is amazing to me- assuming this child was disposed of in the manner suspect Pedro Hernandez claims he was- just how easily a life can be seemingly erased.

Just gone.

Hernandez says after luring the child into the basement of the bodega (where he was employed), he simply placed the body in a bag, and left it in the narrow walkway/alley where the trash collectors would have taken it as part of their regular pick up.

In just a short period of time, the child has simply vanished. Now, 33 years later, it is unlikely he will ever be found.

Next, I am struck by the how difficult this case is going to be for the prosecution. What was the motive for committing this crime? Hernandez doesn’t seem to be a pedophile. When asked why he did it, Hernandez had no answer. He says he doesn’t know. He later said that maybe he did it because little Etan reminded him of a nephew he wasn’t fond of.

Others have speculated that Hernandez was mentally ill, as if that explains the lack of motive. If Hernandez was simply crazy, how did he manage to dispose of the boy’s body in such a thorough manner? How did he manage to live a sane life, with a wife and a child, committing no other crimes, victimizing no other children for 33 years?

Then again, perhaps there are other victims, and Hernandez managed to kidnap and dispose of them as effectively as he kidnapped and disposed of Etan.

Personally, I doubt he could have done that over the course of so many years without raising suspicion somewhere along the way.

In a case that has had its share of both suspects and false confessions, a case that is 33 years old, where there is no body, DNA or physical evidence, the lack of motive seems significant.

I wonder how police can be sure they have the right man. Even if they do, I’m not sure they’ll be able to convince a jury to convict him.

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