Etan Patz Suspect Reportedly Kept Boy's Body in Store Freezer

Prayer leader told New York Times Pedro Hernandez said he strangled a boy.

ByBy Enjoli Francis
May 28, 2012, 7:08 AM

May 28, 2012 — -- Pedro Hernandez, the former store clerk charged in the 1979 death of 6-year-old Etan Patz after he confessed to the alleged murder, reportedly kept the boy's body in a walk-in refrigerator in the store's basement before discarding it.

Hernandez was arrested Thursday after telling authorities that he'd lured the child to his death with the promise of soda.

He reportedly said that he'd strangled Etan and then stuffed the boy's body into a plastic garbage bag, carried it to another location and then dumped it in the trash.

Citing his confession to police, the New York Post reported today that Hernandez said he'd kept the boy's body in the refrigerator until he could dispose of the corpse.

Law enforcement sources said the police department is attempting to confirm the details provided by Hernandez and whether to search for remains, the Post said.

Also, The New York Times reported this weekend that Hernandez had confessed during a prayer meeting in the early 1980s to killing a boy.

The former leader of the prayer group, which was held in a Roman Catholic church in Camden, N.J., told the Times that Hernandez said in front of the meeting's attendees that he had strangled a boy, the paper reported Sunday.

"He confessed to the group," said Tomas Rivera, who often led the meetings at St. Anthony of Padua and was present during the admission. Rivera told the Times he did not tell the police at the time "because he did not confess to me."

Rivera, who said he'd been questioned by New York police last week, said Hernandez had also said he left the body in a trash bin.

The prayer-circle confession was confirmed to the Times by Hernandez's sister, Norma Hernandez, who said that although she'd never talked to Pedro Hernandez about the case, his comments to the prayer group were known to the family. She did not say whether her brother had revealed the identity of the boy.

In a Facebook post on its page, St. Anthony of Padua responded to The Times story:

"At the time the confession in the prayer group would have taken place, the friars had not yet even arrived in Camden. But some members of the prayer group back then are still active in the parish. Please keep the Patz family and the Hernandez family in your prayers," the message said.

Former Store Clerk Charged

Hernandez, now 51, was a clerk at a corner store in the New York City neighborhood where Etan disappeared 33 years ago. Etan had been allowed for the first time to walk to the school bus stop alone May 25, 1979.

Hernandez had worked at the store for nearly a month. He left after Etan's disappearance, according to officials. Etan's body has not been found.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Hernandez had told relatives and friends as early as 1981 that he'd "done a bad thing and killed a child in New York."

Hernandez was formally charged with second-degree murder. He remains at a New York City hospital because authorities fear he might attempt kill himself. His lawyer said no plea had been entered pending a psychiatric evaluation.

The search for Etan has been one of the largest, longest-lasting and most heartwrenching hunts for a missing child in the country's recent history. His photo was among the first of a missing child to appear on a milk carton.

New York City police hailed Hernandez's arrest, saying that it closed a case that had haunted the city for three decades.

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