Homicide

Long-awaited trial set to open in missing-child case of Etan Patz, who vanished in 1979

  • FILE - This May 28, 2012, file photo shows a newspaper with a photograph of Etan Patz at a makeshift memorial in the SoHo neighborhood of New York where Patz lived before his disappearance on May 25, 1979. The memorial was set up near a building that housed a convenience store where Pedro Hernandez, accused of killing Patz, told police 33 years after they boy's disappearance, that he choked the 6-year-old and put the still-living boy into a plastic bag, boxed up the bag and left it on a street. Opening statements in Hernandez's trial are set for Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

    FILE - This May 28, 2012, file photo shows a newspaper with a photograph of Etan Patz at a makeshift memorial in the SoHo neighborhood of New York where Patz lived before his disappearance on May 25, 1979. The memorial was set up near a building that housed a convenience store where Pedro Hernandez, accused of killing Patz, told police 33 years after they boy's disappearance, that he choked the 6-year-old and put the still-living boy into a plastic bag, boxed up the bag and left it on a street. Opening statements in Hernandez's trial are set for Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Nov. 15, 2012, file photo, Pedro Hernandez appears in Manhattan criminal court in New York. Hernandez confessed in 2012 to killing the long-missing New York City boy, Etan Patz but Hernandez’s defense maintains his confessions are the false imaginings of a man who has an IQ in the lowest 2 percent of the population and has problems discerning reality from fiction. Opening statements in Hernandez's trial are set for Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Louis Lanzano, Pool, File)

    FILE - In this Nov. 15, 2012, file photo, Pedro Hernandez appears in Manhattan criminal court in New York. Hernandez confessed in 2012 to killing the long-missing New York City boy, Etan Patz but Hernandez’s defense maintains his confessions are the false imaginings of a man who has an IQ in the lowest 2 percent of the population and has problems discerning reality from fiction. Opening statements in Hernandez's trial are set for Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Louis Lanzano, Pool, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this March 17, 1980, file photo, Stan and Julie Patz stand on the second-floor fire escape of the of their loft in the SoHo neighborhood of New York.  Below them runs Prince Street, along which Etan, their 6-year-old son, set off to school on May 25, 1979, and has not been seen since. Pedro Hernandez, who worked in a nearby convenience store and is accused of killing Patz, told police 33 years after they boy's disappearance that he choked the 6-year-old and put the still-living boy into a plastic bag, boxed up the bag and left it on a street. Opening statements in Hernandez's trial are set for Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Marty Reichenthal, File)

    FILE - In this March 17, 1980, file photo, Stan and Julie Patz stand on the second-floor fire escape of the of their loft in the SoHo neighborhood of New York. Below them runs Prince Street, along which Etan, their 6-year-old son, set off to school on May 25, 1979, and has not been seen since. Pedro Hernandez, who worked in a nearby convenience store and is accused of killing Patz, told police 33 years after they boy's disappearance that he choked the 6-year-old and put the still-living boy into a plastic bag, boxed up the bag and left it on a street. Opening statements in Hernandez's trial are set for Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Marty Reichenthal, File)  (The Associated Press)

He was just a name in a file for decades, one of many people police encountered while searching for a 6-year-old New York City boy named Etan Patz (AY'-tahn PAYTS').

But 35 years later, Pedro Hernandez is going on trial in a case ingrained in the nation's approach to missing children.

Opening statements are set for Friday. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to murder and kidnapping.

Etan vanished in May 1979. He became one of the first missing children pictured on milk cartons.

In 2012, Hernandez gave a videotaped confession. Prosecutors say also he made incriminating remarks to friends and relatives in the 1980s.

His defense says his confession is false. It also notes that a convicted Pennsylvania child molester was suspected for years in Etan's disappearance.