New Jersey Man Charged With Killing Etan Patz 33 Years Ago [AUDIO/VIDEO]
A Jersey man who confessed to choking 6-year-old Etan Patz to death back in 1979, 33 years ago today, has been arrested and charged with the child's murder in New York City.
Pedro Hernandez of Maple Shade, who worked at a convenience store near Etan's home in Soho, confessed after hours of police questioning.
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New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly says Hernandez told police he lured the boy to the convenience store with the promise of a soda, then took him into the basement and choked him.
"He was remorseful, and I think the detectives thought that it was a feeling of relief on his part," says Kelly, "We believe that this is the individual responsible for the crime."
Rutgers sociology professor Dr. Deborah Carr says there is still tremendous interest in this case- 33 years later because it really "cut to the heart of fear that parents often have… the sheer randomness of the crime is what scares people. He was walking to school in his own neighborhood. It was a very short walk. His parents had finally allowed him to walk on his own, and so if it could happen to Etan it could happen to anybody."
She says it's very important that when a child goes missing, every possible tactic is used to find and save them.
"But on the other hand, the downside is it does raise hysteria, and makes people feel that any child is at risk of being abducted any day of the week, when in fact the statistical risk is extremely low."
Dr. Carr points out, "This case ushered in an era of anxiety about leaving children unsupervised. So that now, parents hyper-monitor their children. They drive them to school 2 blocks, they don't allow them to walk to school or bike to school. Some obesity researchers believe that one reason why we have a generation of increasingly unfit children, in addition to computer games and other sources, is they're not allowed to walk or ride their bikes to school because it's considered dangerous."
She says, "I think among people who don't live in New Jersey. They might think it gives the state a black eye, but those who live in the Garden state, they know it's a very densely populated state - and where there are lots of people, there are lots of very good people and there's also a handful of bad people."
Dr. Carr says the case made a strong impression on the psyche of our nation.
"We like to believe that children should have a safe and carefree childhood, and this really raised that specter of fear that any child possibly can be at risk. And a second issue is that most of us like to believe that if we're a good person, good things will happen to us, and that bad things should not happen randomly. This did happen randomly, and I think that's part of the reason why it instilled fear in the hearts of many Americans."
Carr explained, "I think it will provide closure because it's hard for us to live with uncertainty and mystery. And if we know who did it, we can point a finger. But for the parents, the emotional wound will stay with them forever. One question we'll probably never have answered is - why now? Why is he stepping forward 30 some odd years later? And none of us will actually ever know what's going on the mind of someone who's capable of killing an innocent child."