NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The daughter of a man on trial for murder in the 1979 disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz testified Monday about her father’s unusual behavior in an effort to show that he is mentally ill.

Monday is the first time Becky Hernandez, 25, has spoken publicly about the charges against her father, Pedro Hernandez.

She said she wasn’t allowed out with friends as a youngster unless she had a written invitation and two weeks’ notice and her father held her hand crossing the street until she was 14.

She described her father as strict, controlling, compulsively early and compulsive about cleaning, WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported.

The defense is trying to show Pedro Hernandez’s 2012 confession to choking the boy is a delusion.

Becky Hernandez also testified that her father told of seeing things nobody else saw, including a lady in white with long blonde hair and people with really old faces behind him.

She said her father would clean their Maple Shade, New Jersey, home profusely and cook dinner starting at 2 a.m. — the same food every night: chicken, rice and beans. He would sleep for hours during the day, rarely socialized and insisted on sitting in the same church pew every Sunday.

“We knew he wasn’t well, and we didn’t want to hurt his feelings,” she said. “You know how children sometimes believe in something? That’s the type of response we had. My mom always taught me that what he sees and what he believes is not what we have to see.”

She said her mother taught her to say “oh really” and treat him like a child with an overactive imagination so as to not hurt his feelings, Cornell reported.

Hernandez said stress over her father’s case prevented her from getting a master’s degree. She began crying when asked if she loved her father despite his behavior.

“He’s protective because he loves me,” she said. “It’s the little things that show that he cares. And that’s why I love him.”

The defendant had no visible reaction as his daughter testified. He did turn around to wave and smile at his wife, who was sitting in the benches.

Prosecutors rested their case on Friday. The trial is expected to last at least another month.

Etan disappeared while walking to his school bus stop in SoHo on May 25, 1979. Hernandez was a teenage stock clerk at a bodega a few blocks from where Etan was last seen.

Prosecutors say Hernandez confessed to killing Etan, telling authorities he lured the little boy into the basement of the bodega where he choked Etan and put his body in a bag and tossed it in a box.

On Friday, prosecutors showed jurors a photo of a little boy crouching in a produce box. It was intended to show Etan’s body would have fit into such a box.

The boy who posed is Etan’s size and shape but isn’t identified. His face is obscured in photos shown to the jurors.

Etan’s body was never found, but he was legally declared dead as the investigation spanned decades.

Over the years, the case bounced around between detectives and units and from local police to federal agents and back. Most of the historical documents in the file are not specific to Hernandez, because no one was focused on him.

There’s been no physical evidence. During his confession, Hernandez told detectives that he tossed the boy’s bag up onto a freezer in the basement of the bodega.

“If the freezer is still there, the book bag should be there,” Hernandez told detectives. But the shop was closed and cleared out in the early 1980s, its contents tossed, and it’s not clear whether police were present at the time. The owners have died and the bag never made it into evidence.

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

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.

Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to murder and kidnapping.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 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.)

Comments

Leave a Reply