NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — More than three decades after the disappearance of Etan Patz, the man accused in the 1979 disappearance and death of the 6-year-old boy is now on trial.
A standing-room only crowd packed the courtroom as opening statements began Friday in the trial against Pedro Hernandez, a man who worked in a nearby bodega at the time and confessed to killing the boy many years later.READ MORE: Pekingese Named Wasabi Crowned Best In Show At Westminster
In her opening statement, Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said Etan was a “tiny man with a big heart” who couldn’t wait to walk to his school bus stop alone.
She said his “beautiful, little life” was snuffed out the very day he achieved that childhood freedom in 1979, calling the case “a crime that changed the face of this city forever.”
Both Hernandez and Etan’s father, Stan Patz, sat stock-still as the prosecutor spoke. Hernandez’ wife, Rosemary, was also in the courtroom.
Hernandez emerged as a suspect in 2012 based on a tip and a videotaped confession that prosecutors say was foreshadowed by remarks he made to friends and relatives in the 1980s.
“You will see and hear his chilling confession,” Illuzzi-Orbon told jurors. “What you will see is someone who very keenly controls the information that he puts out.”
The defense depends on convincing jurors his confession was false and suggesting that the real killer may be a convicted Pennsylvania child molester who had been a prime suspect for years.
In his opening statements, defense attorney Harvey Fishbein said Hernandez “cannot distinguish between what is real and what is not.”
Fishbein urged jurors to focus on what he called a lack of evidence against his client. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty.