The murder trial of the man accused in the disappearance of six-year-old Etan Patz ended Friday, May 8, with the jury hopelessly deadlocked after 18 days of deliberations, thus leaving unresolved a case that has haunted New York City for 36 years, reports The Associated Press (AP).
Jurors said for a third time that they could not reach a unanimous verdict in the case against Pedro Hernandez, and the judge declared a mistrial, according to the report.
Hernandez, from Maple Shade, New Jersey, was a teenage stock boy at a Manhattan convenience store when Patz went missing May 25, 1979.
Prosecutors have asked to set a new trial date. A hearing will be held June 10 to discuss a new date. Hernandez, who showed no reaction when the mistrial was declared, will remain in jail.
Jurors started deliberating April 15 and announced they were deadlocked twice before, on April 29 and on Tuesday. Both times, the judge told them to keep trying to reach a verdict.
Etan was among the first missing children pictured on milk cartons. His parents helped shepherd in an era of law enforcement advances that make it easier to track missing children and communicate between agencies.
While New York City detectives frantically searched for the boy, Hernandez moved back to New Jersey and slipped off the radar.
His name, according to the AP report, appears in police files only once until 2012, when he confessed to choking the boy in the basement of the shop, then putting the body in a bag, putting the bag in a banana box and walking it about two blocks away where he dumped it.
Etan’s body was never found, nor was any trace of clothing or his belongings, noted AP.
While several members of a prayer circle, an ex-wife and a friend testified that Hernandez had told them at different points during the past three decades that he’d harmed a boy in New York, no physical evidence tied Hernandez to the crime was found.
Police were brought to Hernandez’s door after his brother-in-law called in a tip. He’d seen news reports of an FBI excavation in the SoHo neighborhood linked to the case, after it had been dormant for years. He testified he had long suspected his brother-in-law had been involved in the death of the child.
Hernandez was indicted in 2012 by a grand jury after he confessed to killing the boy, but later pleaded not guilty.
His defense attorney claimed that Hernandez was repeatedly diagnosed with schizophrenia, and that he has “an IQ in the borderline-to-mild mental retardation range.” (INN)