US

In Etan Patz missing-boy case, defense focuses on longtime suspect who was never charged

FILE - In this combination of two file photos, convicted child molester Jose Antonio Ramos, left, and Pedro Hernandez, right, who is accused of abducting and killing six-year-old Etan Patz in 1979 are shown. Hernandez could not have murdered Patz, his defense has said. He is mentally ill, and that's why he falsely confessed to choking the boy in the basement of the convenience store where he worked. And another man long suspected in the crime is the true killer - there was just not enough evidence to try him, the defense argues. Testimony about Ramos, whose shadow has loomed large over the ongoing trial, is expected this week. (AP Photo/File)

FILE - In this combination of two file photos, convicted child molester Jose Antonio Ramos, left, and Pedro Hernandez, right, who is accused of abducting and killing six-year-old Etan Patz in 1979 are shown. Hernandez could not have murdered Patz, his defense has said. He is mentally ill, and that's why he falsely confessed to choking the boy in the basement of the convenience store where he worked. And another man long suspected in the crime is the true killer - there was just not enough evidence to try him, the defense argues. Testimony about Ramos, whose shadow has loomed large over the ongoing trial, is expected this week. (AP Photo/File)  (The Associated Press)

The longtime suspect in the disappearance of Etan Patz is looming over the murder trial of the man who confessed to killing the 6-year-old boy.

Jose Antonio Ramos wasn't charged criminally in the case that helped galvanize the national missing children's movement. But for decades, the convicted pedophile was considered the prime suspect, until the bombshell confession in 2012 by Pedro Hernandez, a former teenage stock clerk who worked at a convenience store where Etan was headed when he vanished.

Hernandez's attorneys have been allowed to present evidence against Ramos at the trial — in essence mounting a mini-prosecution pointing to Ramos, invalidating the confession given by their client. The 54-year-old Hernandez says he choked Etan in the basement of the convenience store.

Prosecutors say the lengthy confession is sound.