Julie Patz Speaks Of The Anguish That Followed After She Saw Her Son For Last Time

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The mother of a 6-year-old boy who vanished on his way to school 35 years ago is testifying in the murder trial of a store clerk accused of killing him.

Julie Patz took the stand Monday in the trial of Pedro Hernandez, who has pleaded not guilty.

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She began her testimony recounting her time living in SoHo when Etan was little. She was the last relative to see him alive.

Etan disappeared while walking to his school bus stop May 25, 1979. He was never found, but was legally declared dead as the investigation spanned decades.

“That was the last time I saw him. I watched him walk one block away,” Julie Patz testified. “I turned around and went back upstairs and that was the last time.”

She said when Etan disappeared, he knew his address and phone number. His parents never changed their number and have lived in the same SoHo apartment all these years.

The boy was “totally outgoing and trusting of everyone — totally nonjudgmental about people,” his mother said. “Everyone that he met once was his friend and was a nice person.”

But while Etan craved independence and was eager to become a grown-up, Patz said, “at the same time he was very fearful of being lost or left alone by himself.”

Jurors saw Etan’s smiling young face for the first time on Monday. Prosecutors showed them the little boy who loved having his picture taken by his photographer dad, CBS2’s Jessica Schneider reported.

Stanley Patz was in court to hear the heart-wrenching testimony of his wife.

Julie Patz recounted the “circus-like” scene the night Etan disappeared, talking about the detectives who flooded their SoHo loft but lamenting: “I don’t remember a thing about that night and the next day, quite honestly.” She recalled only having “very rubbery legs,” an upset stomach and difficulty walking, thinking and talking.

She also talked about the “crazies” who would show up at their SoHo home in the years after, claiming to be Etan or know something about his disappearance, Schneider reported.

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.

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.

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In Hernandez’s videotaped, hourslong confessions, he says he offered Etan a soda to entice him into the basement of a bodega where Hernandez worked.

Then, Hernandez said, he choked the boy and dumped him, still alive, in a box with some curbside trash.

“Something just took over me, and I was just choking him,” said Hernandez, 54, of Maple Shade, New Jersey. “He just kind of stood there, and I just felt bad, what I did.”

Defense lawyers say Hernandez’ confession is fiction, dreamed up by a mentally ill man with a low IQ and a history of hallucinations and fueled by over six hours of police questioning before Hernandez was read his rights.

After confessing, Hernandez told a defense psychologist his memory of the killing “feels like a dream” and he wasn’t sure it had really happened.

A defense psychologist wrote that Hernandez’s psychological problems and intellectual limitations make him more likely than other people to confess falsely.

Hernandez’s lawyers also plan to point to longtime suspect Jose Ramos, a Pennsylvania prisoner who dated a woman who sometimes cared for Etan.

Authorities said Ramos made incriminating statements when questioned about Etan in the 1980s, though he never confessed to killing the boy.

Ramos has denied it, but a civil court found him liable for Etan’s death in 2004 after Ramos stopped cooperating with questioning.

Etan’s disappearance ushered in a new protectiveness into American parenting.

He became one of the first missing children featured on milk cartons. His parents advocated for legislation that created a nationwide law-enforcement framework to address such cases.

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

The trial is expected to last up to three months.

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