Stan Patz last saw his son Etan 37 years ago. He attended virtually every day of the 2015 trial of Pedro Hernandez that ended with a hung jury, and then came again — same seat, same row — each day for the retrial that ended Tuesday with a long-awaited conviction.
Afterward, he smiled but looked like he was on the verge of weeping as he met with reporters and talked about something resembling closure. “I’m truly relieved,” he said. “It’s about time. It really is. It’s about time.”
In court, moments before the verdict was ready, Patz held hands with two of the jurors who had voted guilty at the first trial and later bonded with the family and prosecutors. “It was a tough moment for Stan,” one of the jurors, Jennifer O’Connor, said later.
The first count against Hernandez was intentional second degree murder. When the jury foreman said “Not Guilty” to that count, many in the courtroom gasped. “That was a surprise,” Patz later said. “I didn’t expect it.”
But the next two verdicts were guilty on kidnapping and so-called felony murder for Etan’s death during the kidnapping. Within moments, Patz was hugging his ex-juror companions, and embracing and backslapping lead prosecutors Joan Illuzzi-Orbon and Joel Seidemann.
Etan’s mother Julie Patz testified at trial, but said attending every day would be too painful. Stan Patz said he notified her by phone of the result. The couple years ago filed a suit against another suspect, Jose Ramos, but Patz was convinced at the first trial that Hernandez was guilty.
“I’m really grateful that this jury came back and found what I have known for a long time, that this man Pedro Hernandez is guilty of doing something really terrible many years ago,” he said.
He praised police and prosecutors for never giving up. “I needed to to know what happened to my son,” he said.
When a reporter asked what he would say to, or about, Hernandez at his scheduled Feb. 28 sentencing, Patz paused for a moment, thinking.
“I’ll tell you when I get there,” he said.