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Trial Postponed For Months In Etan Patz Murder Case

Pedro Hernandez is charged with killing 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979. (credit: CBS News)

Pedro Hernandez is charged with killing 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979. (credit: CBS News)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The murder trial for the man charged with killing a 6-year-old Manhattan boy who disappeared some 35 years ago has been postponed for months, as psychiatric exams and other preparations continue.

Pedro Hernandez had been tentatively set to go on trial in April in the case surrounding Etan Patz. But a judge said Wednesday he now anticipates the trial starting in September.

Etan was 6 years old disappeared while walking to his school bus stop in 1979. He was one of the first missing children to appear on a milk carton.

The anniversary of his disappearance became National Missing Children’s Day.

Police initially encountered Hernandez as a corner-store stock clerk in the area where Etan disappeared. But the 52-year-old Maple Shade, N.J., man wasn’t arrested until May 2012, after detectives learned that he’d made incriminating remarks to acquaintances years before about harming a child.

Police said Hernandez gave a confession, but his defense argued it was false and prompted by mental illness.

Hernandez has an IQ of 67, his medical records mention schizophrenia dating back years, and he’s taken anti-psychotic medication for some time, his lawyer, Harvey Fishbein said in papers filed in November.

After his arrest, doctors diagnosed him with schizotypal personality disorder, an ailment characterized by “cognitive and perceptual distortions,” Fishbein wrote. A psychiatrist expert in determining the reliability of confessions found that relying on Hernandez’ statements would be “profoundly unsafe” unless there’s tangible corroborating evidence, according to Fishbein. So far, no such evidence has been found, he said.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.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.)