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Long IslandCrime

In Etan Patz case, NYPD searches SoHo basement

Members of the NYPD search for evidence in

Members of the NYPD search for evidence in the basement of a former bodega where Pedro Hernandez said he killed Etan Patz 33 years ago. (Aug. 8, 2012) Credit: Charles Eckert

Crime scene investigators Wednesday searched for several hours in the basement of a former bodega in SoHo, where a New Jersey man said he killed 6-year-old Etan Patz more than 33 years ago.

The boy disappeared on May 25, 1979, while walking alone for the first time to a school bus stop.

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne confirmed that investigators returned Wednesday to the location where the man, Pedro Hernandez, 51, had once worked. Browne said the search wasn't based on new information, but he declined to elaborate.

Police erected a pulley system on the side of the building and operated it throughout the day. Investigators emerged with at least six brown bags, some covered in dust.

Tiffany Jones, a manager of a nearby clothing store, said a crime scene van pulled up to the corner of West Broadway and Prince Street at about 10:40 a.m.

Detectives went in and out of the basement of what is now an eyewear store and later removed the bags, leaving the scene at about 3:45 p.m.

Hernandez, of Maple Shade, N.J., is being held without bail. His attorney, Harvey Fishbein, said that Hernandez has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Prosecutors charged Hernandez with murder in May, 33 years to the day after the boy disappeared in the neighborhood where his parents and siblings still live.

At the time, Hernandez was 18 and working as a stock clerk at the grocery store down the street from Etan's home.

In a single-page felony complaint signed by NYPD Det. David Ramirez of the missing persons squad, Hernandez was charged with one count of second-degree murder. Police said Hernandez admitted to them that on May 25, 1979, he lured Etan into the bodega at 448 W. Broadway with the promise of soda and strangled him. Hernandez told police in May that he killed Etan in the basement and then put his body in a plastic bag and dumped it in an alley next to 113 Thompson St., about a block and a half away. Police have not provided a motive for the killing.

Shortly after his arrest, Hernandez was hospitalized after making comments about wanting to kill himself at Bellevue Hospital Center's psychiatric ward, and at Rikers Island jail. Hernandez was transferred to the Manhattan Detention Complex on July 18.

His next court day was set for Oct. 1.

With Igor Kossov and the AP

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