Etan Patz's Mom: Wish This Could All Be Over

Defense lawyers said the 51-year-old man charged with Patz's murder has schizophrenia and a history of hallucinations

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    Police say Pedro Hernandez, 51, of Maple Shade, NJ, confessed to strangling 6-year-old Etan Patz in the basement of a Manhattan convenience store in 1979.

    The mother of Etan Patz says she wishes it could all be over.

    Julie Patz spoke Tuesday outside her SoHo apartment building, a week after a man confessed to killing her 6-year-old son 33 years ago.

    According to the Daily News
    , Patz said, "This is taking my freedom away. I just wish this could be over." She made the remarks after running into reporters and photographers.

    Patz Suspect's Sister Speaks

    [NY] Patz Suspect's Sister Speaks
    Norma Hernandez says her brother, Pedro Hernandez, confessed to a church group years ago he'd killed a child in New York. She claims she went to police to Camden to report it, but says police never followed up on the tip. Jonathan Dienst reports.

    Asked if she believed police got the right suspect, Patz said, "No comment. It's an ongoing investigation."

    Patz's body hasn't been recovered.

    Meanwhile, Patz's father made clear that the attention to the case since the arrest of Pedro Hernandez, a former bodega stock clerk near the Patz home when the boy disappeared, had taken a toll, telling reporters they had "managed to make a difficult situation even worse." 

    "It is past time for you to leave me, my family and my neighbors alone," Stan Patz said in a note posted on his apartment building's door.

    Archive Interview: Etan Patz Detective

    [NY] From the Archive: Detective Who Searched for Etan Patz
    Watch an archive interview of William Butler, an NYPD detective who spent years searching for Etan Patz, the boy who went missing in 1979.

    Authorities are continuing to work the case after Pedro Hernandez made the startling confession that he strangled the boy, hid his body in a bag and a box and dumped it near some trash, police said. He worked at a neighborhood convenience store when Patz vanished on his way to school May 25, 1979.

    Defense lawyers said Hernandez, 51, has schizophrenia and a history of hallucinations and it's unclear how much that will factor in the case charging him with the murder of young Patz. He remains in a psychiatric facility as court-appointed doctors continue to assess his mental state.

    If Hernandez's psychiatric record becomes an issue, he'll encounter a justice system that seeks to strike a balance between recognizing mental illness and holding people responsible for their actions — a balance that has shifted back and forth over more than a century and a half. 

    His statements launched police and the Manhattan district attorney's office into a complex process of building a 33-year-old case with, so far, no physical evidence. 

    And it has started the courts on a parallel path of exploring Hernandez's mental health. After defense lawyer Harvey Fishbein told a judge that Hernandez was schizophrenic, bipolar, had had visual and auditory hallucinations, and had been on psychiatric medication for some time, the judge ordered an examination to see whether he was mentally fit to stand trial. 

    The results aren't yet known, and either side could challenge the findings and get another exam. It will ultimately be up to a judge to declare whether Hernandez can go to trial. If not, he would be sent to a psychiatric hospital and evaluated periodically to see whether he had improved enough to go to court. Most people found unfit are eventually returned to court, legal experts say. 

    Such exams aim to assess whether someone is well enough to participate in a trial and aid his or her own defense. They are separate from an insanity defense, which revolves around the defendant's psychological state at the time of the alleged crime. 

    In New York and many other states, defendants have to prove they were so mentally ill that they didn't know what they were doing was wrong. If successful, they are sent to psychiatric hospitals until judged well enough for release, if ever. 

    Fishbein declined to comment Tuesday on whether he might pursue an insanity defense. It could be challenging to portray Hernandez's mindset so long ago, potentially involving digging up decades-old medical records, tapping friends' and relatives' memories of his behavior at the time, or both. 

    "The closer you can bring his mental health and treatment issues to the time of the crime, the more plausible it becomes that he was suffering from mental disorder at the earlier time," said Stephen J. Morse, a University of Pennsylvania law and psychiatry professor who's not involved in the case. 

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