News

NYPD Detectives Search Maple Shade Home Of Suspect In Etan Patz Case

Pedro Hernandez/Etan Patz (credit: CBS 2)

Pedro Hernandez/Etan Patz (credit: CBS 2)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – New York Police Department detectives searched the New Jersey home of a man charged with murdering Etan Patz, a 6-year-old boy who went missing in 1979.

Armed with a search warrant, more than a dozen officers and a NYPD Crime Scene Unit van arrived at the Maple Shade, N.J., home of Pedro Hernandez Wednesday afternoon looking for shreds of evidence in a case that has bewildered authorities for three decades.

Chief NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said only that the search was part of an ongoing investigation.

A lawyer for Hernandez’s wife, Rosemary Hernandez, said Wednesday that the Manhattan district attorney’s office called to let her know about the search and allowed her to be there. The lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, said neither he nor her family knows what authorities are looking for.

Gottlieb said he’s working with Rosemary Hernandez because she wants “to make sure the DA’s office understands the severity of the mental illness” that her husband has. He said she has witnessed Hernandez having hallucinations and delusions over the years.

“She is firmly of the belief,” he said, “that the confession is unreliable.”

Hernandez lived at the home with his wife and daughter. Neighbors have expressed surprise at his arrest, saying he was “not a problem” and “didn’t bother anybody.”

Meanwhile, the suspect’s sister, Norma Hernandez, said her brother had a strange animosity towards her 3-year-old nephew Sammy Santana. She claimed she heard from family members that Hernandez hated Sammy so much, that he once hurt the boy.

“That Pedro — a smack in the face, and then tell him, ‘You’re like the devil,’” she said, referring to her nephew.

Two weeks have passed since police said Pedro Hernandez confessed to luring Patz on May 25, 1979 to the basement of a SoHo deli with the promise of a soda, strangling him and then putting his body out with the trash.

But there has been no evidence to back up the claim. No body was found. The convenience store has long been renovated into an eyeglasses shop. Sanitation records that could show where trash was dumped do not go back farther than 1989.

Prosecutors don’t necessarily need physical evidence to corroborate Hernandez’s story: It could be just as simple as the fact that he worked at the store at the time of the boy’s disappearance. Still, investigators were working diligently and interviewing Hernandez’s family and friends, including a church leader who claimed Hernandez once confessed to him.

CBS News has learned that when detectives first questioned Pedro Hernandez in Camden, N.J. and put Patz’s picture in front of him, he allegedly said, “He reminds me of a snot-nosed 3-year-old nephew I had back then. The devil was in his face.”

“The detectives were very deliberate in saying what could we learn about his contact and conduct with other children in the family, because the investigator said it would be very unusual for him to commit the murder of a small child and for that to be his only incident with a child over a period of three decades,” CBS This Morning’s John Miller said.

Hernandez’s attorney said his client was bipolar and schizophrenic and had visual and auditory hallucinations. Hernandez has not entered a plea in the case.

Please share your thoughts below…

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)