How Etan Patz's Soda Could Have Led Police to Suspect

He had a dollar to buy drink, and Pedro Hernandez worked at bodega

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted May 25, 2012 7:10 AM CDT | Updated May 25, 2012 7:48 AM CDT

(Newser) – Exactly 33 years ago today, on another Friday before Memorial Day, 6-year-old Etan Patz convinced his mother to let him walk the block and a half to his school bus stop alone, for the first time. His mother told detectives Etan had a dollar with him so he could buy a soda, and the Daily Beast points out that the bodega next to the bus stop, where Pedro Hernandez was a 19-year-old stock clerk, would have been a logical place for him to stop. The neighborhood was a gritty one at the time, and a longtime resident tells the New York Times the seedy bodega had a "hostile" feeling and was rumored to host cockfights in the basement. So why didn't investigators, knowing Hernandez worked at the store, ever interrogate him? That's the question the Daily Beast raises, though it offers no clear answers.

Hernandez, now 51 and charged with Etan’s murder, says he lured the boy to the store’s basement by promising him a soda, strangled him, and threw his body out with the trash. NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly says Hernandez has not provided a motive, and adds that there is "no reason at this time" to suspect Hernandez sexually abused the boy, NBC New York reports. One law enforcement source says Hernandez had already confessed when Etan first disappeared but investigators wrote him off as a “lunatic,” but Kelly insists that is not true and says police were informed about Hernandez's possible involvement only recently. Hernandez reportedly has gone back to the old bodega building, now an eyeglass store, with detectives—but it will be near-impossible to recover any remains. For that and other reasons, the case is far from solved, a law enforcement official tells the New York Times. Hernandez "is lucid, he’s persuasive. But there is not a lot of corroborating information."

This undated image provided Friday, May 28, 2010 by Stanley K. Patz shows Patz's son Etan who vanished in New York on May 25, 1979.   (AP Photo/Stanley K. Patz)
This undated image provided Friday, May 28, 2010 by Stanley K. Patz shows Patz's son Etan who vanished in New York on May 25, 1979.   (AP Photo/Stanley K. Patz)
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