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Mystery informant revealed in Etan Patz case

Pedro Hernandez appears in Manhattan criminal court in

Pedro Hernandez appears in Manhattan criminal court in New York in this Nov. 15, 2012 photo. Credit: AP / Louis Lanzano

A new mystery informant whom prosecutors have said they plan to call in the prosecution of Pedro Hernandez for the 1979 disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz is an inmate jailed with Hernandez, his defense lawyer said in court Friday.

Prosecutors revealed the existence of the informant Monday but have kept his identity secret.

Defense lawyer Harvey Fishbein declined to reveal more details outside court but shrugged off the significance of anything his client may have said to the informant.

"I've never been less worried," Fishbein said. "I think it's desperate. If this statement was actually made, there is nothing new in it."

Hernandez, of Maple Shade, New Jersey, was charged in 2012 with abducting and murdering Patz, the boy whose disappearance on the way to catch a school bus in SoHo has been an unsolved mystery for 36 years. Hernandez worked in a local bodega at the time.

Police targeted Hernandez based on tips that he had expressed feelings of guilt about Patz's disappearance. He confessed in an interrogation, but the defense says he has a low IQ and fantasized the crime due to a mental disorder.

Jury selection in Manhattan Supreme Court began Jan. 5. Prosecutors and the defense have so far screened about 600 prospective jurors and plan to start questioning those who were able to serve in the estimated three-month trial in open court next week.

Patz's body was never found, and prosecutors have not publicly identified any physical evidence that would corroborate Hernandez's confession.

In addition to challenging the confession, the defense intends to try to cast suspicion on Jose Ramos -- a convicted pedophile currently in prison, who was a friend of Patz's baby-sitter and was once the prime suspect.

Ramos, who is currently imprisoned on unrelated charges, has signaled he will assert his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent if called to testify.

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