CAMDEN, N.J. – The sister of a man who confessed last week to the 1979 killing of 6-year-old Etan Patz in New York City said Tuesday she went to police in Camden years ago to report a rumor he had confessed at a prayer group but never got beyond giving a statement at the reception desk.
Norma Hernandez, of Camden, told The Associated Press she gave her statement to a man in police uniform, and also gave him a copy of her license. But she said she didn't get any paperwork back and was never brought in to talk to a detective.
Hernandez said she told police she had heard rumors that her brother Pedro had confessed to a church prayer group that he killed a boy in New York but did not have details about the killing, including the name of the boy.
Pedro Hernandez, 51, of Maple Shade, was charged last week with second-degree murder in the death of Etan Patz.
Camden police had no comment Tuesday on the woman's claims. A statement from police said the department "does not have anything else to add at this point."
Hernandez said her brother briefly worked at the Bonnell Dress Co. in Maple Shade, where he pressed clothes in the factory, and later worked in construction until he went on disability.
"As a sister, I have compassion, he's family," she said. "But as a human being, if he did it, let him pay."
Published reports Tuesday quoted Hernandez as saying she went to Camden police in the 1980s. But she said Tuesday she had no recollection when she made her report.
Hernandez said her family had come to the United States from Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, in 1970. At the time, her father was disabled, having been injured by a machete in a farming accident in Puerto Rico. Her father never worked in the U.S., with the exception of the occasional odd job, and the family got by on welfare, she said.
Pedro Hernandez was being held in New York at Bellevue Hospital Center's psychiatric ward. At his arraignment Friday, his court-appointed attorney, Harvey Fishbein, said his client was schizophrenic, bipolar and had been on medication for some time. A psychiatric evaluation was ordered. No plea was entered.
At the Manhattan apartment of Stan and Julie Patz, a sign outside Tuesday said the family wanted to be left alone.