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Etan Patz case defense rests after testimony from second informant

Julie Patz arrives to testify at the trial

Julie Patz arrives to testify at the trial murder trial of Pedro Hernandez, who confessed to abducting and killing her son, Etan Patz, Manhattan Criminal Court, Monday, Feb. 2, 2015. Credit: Bryan R. Smith

Prosecutors in the Etan Patz murder trial said Monday they will recall the 6-year-old's mother to testify as defendant Pedro Hernandez's lawyers rested after getting a second prison informant to implicate a different man as the culprit in the boy's 1979 disappearance.

Jack Colbert, a fraudster whom federal authorities asked to spy on Patz suspect Jose Ramos in 1991, said the convicted molester never admitted killing Etan, but claimed he knew the boy, his school and bus schedule, and was preoccupied with fears of being charged.

"He was very concerned if there was no body, could they prosecute him," the ex-con told jurors in Manhattan Supreme Court. ". . . He kept on saying no one would defend him because the case was too terrible."

Etan vanished on his way to catch a school bus in SoHo on May 25, 1979. Hernandez confessed in 2012 to killing the boy, but his lawyers say it was a delusion caused by a mental disorder and have cast suspicion on Ramos, a convicted pedophile long targeted by law enforcement because his girlfriend had walked Etan to school during a bus strike.

The defense has exposed deep divisions between the Manhattan district attorney's office, which is prosecuting Hernandez, and former federal officials such as prosecutor Stuart GraBois and FBI agent Mary Galligan, who testified as defense witnesses last week that they thought the district attorney should have charged Ramos.

Defense lawyers also called one-time prison informant Jeffrey Rothschild, who spied on Ramos for the feds at the same time as Colbert, and said Ramos admitted picking up Etan and having sex with him on the day of his disappearance.

Colbert was in prison in 1991 for illegal sales and storage of chemicals. He helped the defense by testifying that Ramos freaked out about things he had told Rothschild when he learned that Rothschild was an informant -- apparent corroboration of Rothschild's testimony.

Ramos claimed to have visited the Patz family's SoHo loft when his girlfriend baby-sat, Colbert testified, and without mentioning Etan, also told his cellmate that he had access to the boiler's firebox in the building where he lived in 1979, and asked questions about whether traces remained when a body was cremated.

On cross-examination by prosecutor Penelope Brady, however, the ex-informer said that Ramos often went off on "tangents," and that a number of times denied any role in the disappearance, blamed Etan's parents or police, and predicted Etan would one day turn up alive.

After jurors left, prosecutors said that on Tuesday they will begin their rebuttal case, including testimony from Julie Patz, Etan's mother, who will testify that the woman Ramos knew chaperoned her son to school, but never baby-sat at the family home.

Prosecutors also intend to call a psychiatrist to dispute defense expert testimony on whether Hernandez suffered from mental problems that could have made him fantasize a crime.

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