Published May 30, 2012
The New Jersey man accused of strangling 6-year-old Etan Patz later returned to work at the New York City bodega where he allegedly killed the child, the suspect's sister said Tuesday.
Pedro Hernandez, 51, allegedly told police that he lured Patz with the promise of a soda before killing him on May 25, 1979, in the basement of the bodega where he worked -- steps away from the Patz family's apartment in Mahattan's SoHo neighborhood.
Hernandez's family members have said he confessed to harming a child in New York while at a church prayer group meeting in the early 1980s.
On Tuesday, the suspect's sister, Norma Hernandez, said he returned to work at the bodega sometime between three and seven years after Etan disappeared, the New York Post reported.
The boy's parents, who remained in the same apartment for 33 years in hopes their son would return home, may well have interacted with their son's alleged killer at the neighborhood bodega, according to the newspaper.
Some law enforcement sources, however, remain skeptical of Hernandez's alleged confession -- despite reports he had intimate knowledge of the boy that only the killer would know.
Etan disappeared while walking alone for the first time to a school bus stop on May 25, 1979. Police had long focused their investigation on convicted child molester Jose Ramos.
Ramos was never criminally charged, but a Manhattan judge ruled in a civil case in 2004 that Ramos was responsible for Patz's death.
In another twist in the case, authorities ripped up the former workspace last month of retired handyman Othniel Miller for any clues in the case. Miller, of Brooklyn, N.Y.,worked in a SoHo basement a few blocks away from where Patz lived. He denied any involvement in the boy's disappearance and investigators found no trace of the child during the April excavation of the workspace.
Julie Patz, Etan's mom, when asked Tuesday if she thought Hernandez killed her son, said, "No comment. It’s an ongoing investigation,” according to the newspaper.