Becky Hernandez (second from left) and Rosemary Hernandez, the daughter… (Spencer Platt / Getty Images )
NEW YORK -- Prosecutors filed second-degree murder charges Friday against a 51-year-old New Jersey man who has confessed to killing Etan Patz, a 6-year-old boy who vanished from his Manhattan neighborhood 33 years ago.
The confessed killer, Pedro Hernandez, was expected to be arraigned Friday night in a Manhattan courtroom. His confession Thursday appeared to finally solve the mystery of Etan's disappearance, which galvanized a national effort to improve methods of tracing missing and abducted children.
Hernandez's motive remains unknown. He told police he lured Etan into the grocery store where he worked on the morning of May 25, 1979, and strangled him. Etan's body never was found. Hernandez says he wrapped it in plastic and threw it into an alley with the trash.
Etan's disappearance 33 years ago launched a nationwide effort to improve methods of finding missing children and ushered in a more cautious style of parenting.
New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Thursday that police had begun looking into Hernandez last month after receiving information from someone that led them to view Hernandez as a "person of interest."
"In the years following Etan's disappearance, he had told a family member and others that he had 'done a bad thing and killed a child in New York,'" Kelly said of Hernandez, who was working as a stock clerk at the store at the time.
The arrest came about a month after the FBI and police renewed their search for evidence by digging up the basement of a building down the street from the Patz residence in Manhattan. At that time, investigators questioned a Brooklyn resident who had been a handyman with a workshop in the basement, which Etan would have passed on his way to the bus that morning.
The man denied involvement and was never called a suspect.
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