How Detectives Coaxed Suspect in Etan Patz Murder to Confess

Pedro Hernandez, a man with an IQ of 70 and history of mental illness, confessed to strangling a 6-year-old boy after investigators appealed to his religious faith


For more about the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz, a case that frustrated and mystified police for decades, read the story ProPublica produced with WNYC in 2013.

Earlier this week, prosecutors played a confession given by the man they have charged with the 1979 murder of Etan Patz. In it, the accused, a former bodega worker from the Patz family's Manhattan neighborhood, is calm and composed in detailing how he strangled the 6-year-old boy and disposed of his body in a box. Pedro Hernandez cups his head in his hand at one point, crosses his legs casually in another. He chuckles at a prosecutor's joke. The prosecutor, seated across a table, carefully advises Hernandez of his rights and questions him methodically.

On Thursday, a very different version of the confession was played in Manhattan Supreme Court. This confession had been taken in a New Jersey police precinct after Hernandez had been questioned for more than seven hours by detectives excited about solving one of America's most famous missing child cases.

In this version, Hernandez sobs. Detectives, in a cramped corner of an interrogation room, rub Hernandez's head and gently touch his shoulders. The detectives invoke Hernandez's faith as an encouragement for him to come clean. The environment is highly charged.

"That's strength," one of the detectives says as Hernandez starts to detail his account. "That's the strength of the Lord."

At another point, detectives place a missing person poster with Etan's face on it before Hernandez.

"What did you do to him," a detective asks.

"I choked him," Hernandez says.

The detectives then ask Hernandez to write down in a notebook what he had just said.
"How do you spell choke," he asks.

"C-H-O-K," the detective instructs. "Sign here."

The fate of Etan Patz has nagged achingly at New Yorkers for decades. The boy had been on his way to school alone when he vanished. A manhunt was undertaken. National headlines followed. The FBI joined New York police in the investigation.

But the case had never been solved. Suspects were identified, and one was even found culpable for Etan's death in a civil proceeding. But the boy's body was never found. No one was ever criminally prosecuted.

The prosecution of Hernandez, still in its infancy more than two years after his arrest in May of 2012, is the latest uncertain chapter in the Patz saga. The arrest came with declarations of triumph by police and prosecutors, but also with skepticism among many, including FBI agents who had long worked on the case.

The playing of the two confessions arose as part of a judicial hearing to determine whether either would be admissible at a trial.

Prosecutors have sought to depict the raw emotions of Hernandez seen in Thursday's version as evidence of his authentic guilt. The tears, for them, are genuine, a logical and natural consequence of a painful, shameful unburdening. The appeals to his faith were an effort to get at the truth of what happened.

For Hernandez's lawyer, the behavior of the detectives is manipulative, and the anguish of his client is the consequence of what can happen when a mentally ill man is interrogated out of public view for hours.

In court on Monday, the lawyer, Harvey Fishbein, said all versions of Hernandez's confession are provably wrong when compared against the known evidence about the crime. But Fishbein said he does not doubt that Hernandez, a man with an IQ of 70 and a long history of treatment with anti-psychotic medications, believed what he was telling detectives.

The idea that people could falsely confess to serious crimes and provide compelling details of the rapes or killings they did not commit has been a subject of growing concern in the judicial system. Some states and localities have taken steps to try and limit false confessions.

One of those steps has been to re-examine police interrogation techniques. Another has been to require the taping of initial interrogations. New Jersey, it turns out, is one of the state's that demands recordings. But that's not what happened when Hernandez was questioned in New Jersey in May of 2012.

Prosecutors have argued that taping the seven hours Hernandez spent being interrogated by detectives was not required because it was a New York case, not a New Jersey matter.


And they have said they were not obligated to advise Hernandez of his rights because he was not formally in custody. Fishbein has disputed that, saying that Hernandez more than once said he wanted to go home, but was instead kept in the interrogation room.


Fishbein argues that all of Hernandez's ensuing confessions should be thrown out because of the failure to read Hernandez his rights during the hours of untaped questioning.

The confession played Thursday, then, captures a kind of middle stage in Hernandez's 36 hours with the authorities -- after the untaped interrogation, but before the more decorous interview in the offices of Manhattan prosecutors.

The detectives often make physical contact with Hernandez. They touch him, nearly hug him. They applaud his eventual admissions.

"You did the right thing today," one detective says. "It takes a lot."

Another detective asks if Hernandez wants to say anything to the Paz family.

"That I'm really sorry, that I never meant to hurt their child," he says. "That I hope they can forgive me."

Near the end of the recording, Hernandez remarks to a detective that he knew that what he had said would get a lot of attention.

"Because this is a big case," Hernandez says.



Nifty, Sensex to rally haltingly – Weekly closing report

Nifty may cross 8,200 in the coming week but may be brought down by selling


The S&P BSE Sensex closed the week that ended on 19th September at 27,090 (up 29 points or 0.11%), while the NSE's CNX Nifty ended at 8,121 (up 16 points or 0.20%).


Previous week, we had mentioned that the 50-share Nifty will suffer a decline once it goes below 8,050. On Monday itself, the index closed below this level, which was followed by a huge loss on Tuesday. However the next two trading sessions saw the benchmark sharply reversing losses from the previous two days. Friday’s move was directionless with the index giving up all the intra-day gain by the end of the session.

As we anticipated, the Nifty witnessed a weak move on Monday. The effort to regain strength was met with more of selling. Nifty closed at 8,042 (down 64 points or 0.78%).


This is the highest one-day percentage loss since 8 August 2014. The annual rate of inflation based on the monthly wholesale price index (WPI) decelerated to 3.74% in August 2014, from 5.19% in July 2014. The deceleration in inflation based on the WPI was sharper than market expectations.

This is the sixth consecutive week of positive closing on the indices. The last time such consecutive gains were noticed between the week ending 6 January 2012 and the week ended 10 February 2012.

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan said at a banking conference that inflation was still high and there was no point in cutting interest rates to see inflation pick up again. The RBI wants to bring down interest rates when it is "feasible", Rajan said.

With an aim to improve governance in public sector banks, Rajan said that there was a need to change the management appointment process to bring in more transparency.

We also mentioned in Monday closing report that the loss of Monday would continue on Tuesday which happened. Nifty closed, at its lowest since 26 August 2014, at 7,933 (down 109 points or 1.36%). There was also news that the government will decide on ending government control on diesel pricing after elections in two states next month.

After market hours on Monday, the government released data showing India's merchandise exports registered a marginal increase of 2.35% at $26.95 billion in August 2014 over August 2013.  Imports rose 2.08% at $37.79 billion in August 2014 over August 2013. The trade deficit increased to $10.83 billion in August 2014, from $10.68 billion in August 2013.

On Tuesday, we had anticipated a short bounce to happen on Wednesday. The optimism on the bourses came back on reports that China's central bank is boosting stimulus.


Investors’ hopes were in the direction that the US Federal Reserve rates will remain low for a “considerable time”, even after its bond-buying program is over. Nifty closed at 7,976 (up 43 points or 0.54%).

A four-member committee of secretaries has submitted its report on a new gas pricing mechanism, prescribing a rate much lower than the doubling of price approved by previous UPA government.

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in India on a three-day tour with plans to invest billions of dollars in railways, industrial parks and roads.

On Thursday, the indices made a sudden sharp upmove resulting in highest gain since 2 June 2014. As was the market anticipating in a statement after a two-day FOMC meeting the US Fed said it foresees to keep rates low for a considerable time. Nifty closed at 8,115 (up 140 points or 1.75%).

On Friday, although the initial up move was supported by the positive data from the US, the index gave up all the gains by the end of the session. Nifty closed at 8,121 (up 7 points or 0.08%). On Thursday, on the second day of the Chinese President Xi Jinping's three-day visit to India announced that China will invest $20 billion in India over the next 5 years.

American jobless claims fell by 36,000 to 280,000 in the period ended 13 September 2014, the Labour Department said yesterday. Those already collecting unemployment benefits fell to a more than seven-year low.  

Out of the 27 main sectors tracked by Moneylife, top five and the bottom five sectors for this week were:


ML Top sector


ML Worst sector






Real Estate


Consumer Durables






Software & IT Services


Oil & Gas


Lifestyle & Leisure


Farm & Farm Inputs




Nifty, Sensex to rise haltingly – Friday closing report

Nifty may rally a bit more before a correction


The move on the indices, in the morning session, showed that the upward bias would continue for the third consecutive session, it could cross Thursday’s high and it would remain above previous day’s low. However, the moves on the indices on Friday were directionless. Positive data from the US helped the initial move today but soon the gains started to wither.

The S&P BSE Sensex opened at 27,139 and moved in the range of 27,048 and 27,247 before closing at 27,090 (down 22 points or 0.08%) while NSE's CNX Nifty opened at 8,129 and moved between 8,105 and 8,161 and closed at 8,121 (up 7 points or 0.08%).


The NSE recorded a volume of 120.39 crore shares. India VIX fell 3.55% to close at 11.8875.

On Thursday, the second day of Chinese President Xi Jinping's three-day visit to India, it was announced that China will invest $20 billion in India over the next 5 years. Under a five year Trade and Economic Development Plan, China has also agreed to improve the trade balance between the two countries. The two Asian countries agreed that specific measures to enhance market access for Indian companies in China will be expedited in agricultural and pharmaceutical products and for export of services. China will set up two industrial parks in India -- one in Gujarat and one in Maharashtra. India and China also agreed on specific steps to enhance co-operation in upgrading India's railways sector.

CRISIL (7.63%) was the top gainer in the ‘A’ group on the BSE. The stock hit its all-time high again today. Crisil Research, a unit of the credit rating agency recently launched the first inflation-linked securities index. It believes the index will provide market participants an appropriate and easily accessible benchmark to measure and analyse the performance of such securities. CRISIL IIGS Index seeks to track the performance of a portfolio of inflation-linked securities issued by the Government of India.

Suzlon Energy (9.93%) was the top loser in ‘A’ group on the BSE. Suzlon Group recently announced that it has successfully completed the production of its first blade for its best in class S1112.1 MW turbine. This product has been specifically designed for Suzlons next generation 2.1 MW turbine and is engineered to deliver a 20% increase in AEP (Annual Energy Production) at the same hub height compared to Suzlons 597 wind turbine model.

Tata Consultancy (2.71%) hit its all-time high today and was also the top gainer in Sensex 30 pack. Maruti Suzuki (1.29%) which hit its 52-week high on Thursday was among the top two gainers in the pack. It was in the news when it announced that its second plant at Manesar in Haryana has crossed the 25 lakh cumulative production milestone this month.

Larsen & Toubro (2.51%) was the top loser in the Sensex 30 stock. Its Oman subsidiary bagged an order from the Ministry of Defense, Sultanate of Oman for building Adam airbase.

US indices closed Thursday in the positive.

American jobless claims fell by 36,000 to 280,000 in the period ended 13 September 2014, the Labour Department said yesterday. Those already collecting unemployment benefits fell to a more than seven-year low.

US housing starts and permits fell in August, but upward revisions to the prior month's data indicated gradual improvement in the housing market.

All the Asian indices closed in the positive. Nikkei 225 (1.58%) was the top gainer.

European indices were trading in the green. US Futures too were trading higher.


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