Pedro Hernandez -- the man who confessed to killing 6-year-old Etan Patz -- was raised to be tough, to face hardship "like a man" and take responsibility for his actions, his older brother said Friday.
Emeterio Hernandez's recollections of a childhood marked by hard work and harsh discipline shed new light on the life of an enigmatic figure at the center of a case that captivated the nation.
Relatives were shocked to learn that Pedro Hernandez, 51, of Maple Shade, N.J., has admitted to strangling the Manhattan boy 33 years ago.
"For all these years, Pedro didn't have the guts to be a man and tell [police] what he did," said Emeterio Hernandez, 59. "To me, it's ridiculous. My father raised us to be men, not a bunch of punks."
Hernandez said Pedro -- part of a family of five brothers and seven sisters -- was raised in the mountains of Puerto Rico, coming to the mainland United States at age 12.
Emeterio Hernandez said his brother, who suffers from bipolar disorder, has faced many challenges.
Besides his mental illness, Pedro Hernandez had a troubled first marriage, was once addicted to cocaine, and suffered a back injury more than 20 years ago that put him on permanent disability, Emeterio Hernandez said.
Pedro Hernandez also survived a bout with cancer, only to have it return in recent years, the brother said.
"He was off," Emeterio Hernandez said. "He had mental problems. He had a lot of anger. But he will always be my brother until I die, and there's no way I'll turn my back on him."
Pastor George Bowen of Maranatha Christian Fellowship in Moorestown, N.J., said Pedro Hernandez, who attended the nondenominational evangelical church for the past seven years, was socially withdrawn.
"I would describe him as a very shy, quiet, almost timid personality," Bowen said.
Hernandez's wife, Rosemary, and daughter, Becky, served as greeters for the 450-member congregation, but Hernandez never volunteered, the pastor said.
Margarita Lopez, a sister, said Pedro Hernandez suffered from cancer -- and that the illness, coupled with guilt, may have been eating away at him.
"I think he's going to die soon," she said, calling her brother a "mystery" because he kept so much to himself. "He wanted to say something before he died. Maybe he'll feel better now."
She added: "He has to pay for what he did."
Her husband and Pedro Hernandez's brother in-law, Jose Lopez, said Hernandez, who does not have a criminal record, has had problems controlling his temper.
"If he did this, there has to be punishment," Lopez said. "That family [the Patzes] has been through too much."
"I'm mad at him," Emeterio Hernandez said. "This is going to hurt all of us for the rest of our lives. . . . To kill a child, it's unreal."