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Prosecution in Etan Patz murder trial rests after box demonstration

In this 2012 file photo, Pedro Hernandez appears

In this 2012 file photo, Pedro Hernandez appears in Manhattan criminal court in New York. He is charged in the death of 6-year-old Etan Patz who disappeared on his way to a school bus stop more than three decades earlier. Photo Credit: AP

Prosecutors in the Etan Patz murder trial rested their case Friday after showing jurors dramatic pictures of a staged demonstration of the way they believe defendant Pedro Hernandez stuffed the body of the 6-year-old into a banana box in 1979.

Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Michele Slone said she re-created a piece of Hernandez's disputed confession by having a 48-inch, 45-pound child volunteer similar in size to Etan squish facedown into a Chiquita box lined with a black garbage bag.

Slone told prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon that the child -- called "Little C" -- fit "neatly" into the box, and did not report any difficulty. But on cross-examination she was asked if she also tested Hernandez's claim that he carried the 50-pound box on his shoulder 11/2 blocks to an alley.

"No," she answered.

Hernandez, 53, of Maple Shade, New Jersey, told police in 2012 that as a teen working in a SoHo bodega in 1979, he lured Etan into the basement, strangled him, and disposed of the body in a produce box. The defense claims he fantasized the crime due to a mental disorder.

Defense lawyer Harvey Fishbein said he may call Hernandez's wife and 25-year-old daughter to begin his case on Monday, along with a psychiatrist. The defense also plans to try to implicate a convicted pedophile whom police long suspected.

The defense moved to dismiss murder charges on Friday after prosecutors rested, arguing there was no independent evidence that Etan, who vanished on his way to catch a school bus, was a victim of foul play.

Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Maxwell Wiley, as expected, denied the request, but the motion highlighted one of the key issues in the case -- prosecutors' central evidence is Hernandez's confession, and New York law requires "additional proof" beyond a confession that a crime was actually committed.

Illuzzi-Orbon said Hernandez's 2012 confession was bolstered with similar admissions he made on five other occasions dating to 1979, and by proof that he was working at a SoHo bodega next to Etan's school bus stop on the day he disappeared.

But Fishbein said a confession could not be corroborated by other confessions.

He also said that in the absence of a body, there was as much evidence that Etan wandered off and fell into the Hudson River as there was that he was murdered.

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