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Jury in Etan Patz case deliberates despite snowstorm

Stanley Patz walks inside state Supreme Court in

Stanley Patz walks inside state Supreme Court in Manhattan during deliberations in the retrial of Pedro Hernandez, the man accused of killing his son, 6-year-old Etan Patz, on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017. Credit: Charles Eckert

Jurors in the retrial of Pedro Hernandez for allegedly murdering 6-year-old Etan Patz deliberated Thursday for a seventh day without reaching a verdict after the judge ordered them to come to the lower Manhattan courthouse and keep working despite heavy-snow warnings.

Beginning at 11 a.m., about an hour after their usual start time, members of the panel sent out one note, asking to look at a garbage bag similar to one that prosecutors say Hernandez used to wrap Etan’s body, and a model of the building and alley where he allegedly dumped it.

Supreme Court Justice Maxwell Wiley had ordered jurors to report for duty despite the thick snow swirling outside, and the courthouse at 111 Centre St. had a limited staff, with other judges borrowing Wiley’s courtroom to conduct proceedings while the jury was out.

Hernandez, 54, of Maple Shade, New Jersey, was a clerk working at a bodega in Etan’s SoHo neighborhood in 1979 when the boy’s disappearance on his way to catch a school bus became one of the nation’s most notorious missing child cases.

The child’s body has never been found, but in 2012 a relative of Hernandez told police he had made inculpatory remarks over the years. After a lengthy police interrogation, Hernandez eventually recorded two confessions.

He told cops he lured Etan into the bodega basement by offering him a soda, strangled him to death, put his body in a garbage bag and produce box, and carried it to an alley near a trash bin two blocks away. He gave no motive, but prosecutors say he probably tried to sexually assault Etan.

Defense lawyers argue that Hernandez’s confession didn’t fit some facts — he said the boy had no hat, but Etan was in fact wearing a hat — and that it was a fantasy caused by a mental disorder. They also claim the real culprit was a convicted child molester with a link to Etan’s family.

Hernandez is charged with second-degree murder and kidnapping. His first trial, in 2015, ended with the jury deadlocked 11-1 for conviction after 17 days of deliberation.

The current jury has given no indication that it is at an impasse.

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