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Testimony ends in retrial of Etan Patz disappearance case

Etan Patz, who went missing on May 25,

Etan Patz, who went missing on May 25, 1979, near his SoHo home, is shown in an undated file photo. Testimony at the retrial of Pedro Hernandez in the six-year-old's disappearance came to an end on Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, paving the way for closing arguments and the start of jury deliberations next week. Credit: Stanley K. Patz

Testimony at the retrial of Pedro Hernandez in the 1979 disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz came to an end on Friday, paving the way for closing arguments and the start of jury deliberations next week.

Jury selection began on Sept. 12, and testimony stretched over three months. The first trial of Hernandez in 2015 lasted 10 weeks, and jurors deadlocked 11-1 for conviction after deliberating for 18 days.

Hernandez, 55, of Maple Shade, New Jersey, was working as a bodega clerk in Etan’s SoHo neighborhood at the time of the boy’s notorious disappearance without a trace on his way to catch a school bus. The bodega was next to the bus stop.

He came under suspicion in 2012 when a relative tipped police that Hernandez had made incriminating statements. In custody, Hernandez gave police a videotaped confession after an unrecorded interrogation, and later walked police around the SoHo crime scene.

According to the confession, he lured Etan into the basement of the bodega by offering the boy a soda, strangled him, stuffed his body into a fruit box, and carried the box on his shoulder to a trash bin two blocks away.

At both trials, prosecutors built their case around the confessions and incriminating statements Hernandez made to a friend, a church group and his ex-wife. Etan’s mother Julie Patz gave evocative testimony about the morning she sent her little boy off to school clutching $1 to buy a soda at the bodega.

Lawyers for Hernandez offered a two-pronged defense — claiming that Hernandez’s confession was a delusion stemming from a mental disorder, and seeking to cast blame on Jose Ramos, a convicted child molester who had social contact with a woman who walked Etan home from school during a city bus strike.

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