A grand jury has indicted a former SoHo bodega clerk on charges he lured 6-year-old Etan Patz into a basement and killed him 33 years ago.
Pedro Hernandez is charged with second-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping, the Manhattan District Attorney's office said Wednesday. He was set to appear in court Thursday.
Hernandez, who has a history of mental illness, was arrested last spring, 33 years after Patz disappeared off a SoHo street in a tragic case that mystified New York City for decades.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said at the time that police focused on Hernandez, who now lives in Maple Shade, N.J., after the Missing Persons Squad received a tip from someone who remembered Hernandez speaking of having killed a child.
According to the criminal complaint, Hernandez told police he lured the boy into a bodega where he worked, where he took him to the basement, strangled him and placed him inside a plastic bag.
The boy's body has never been found. On Wednesday, a man who answered the intercom at the child's 1979 home said the family had no comment.
Hernandez's attorney, Harvey Fishbein, said the trial would not solve the mystery of what happened to Patz.
He said Hernandez, who has taken medication for schizophrenia for years, has recently been diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder, which includes hallucinations. Fishbein cited both court-ordered and private psychiatric evaluations and said the entire case is based on statements made by his mentally ill client.
"The statements alleged by the people are not supported by any evidence whatsoever despite extraordinary investigative efforts by the police, back then and now," Fishbein said.
A spokeswoman for the Manhattan District Attorney said the grand jury found sufficient evidence to charge Hernandez and that the office believes the case should go to trial.
"This indictment is the outcome of a lengthy and deliberative process, involving months of factual investigation and legal analysis," said Erin Duggan.