A former convenience store worker who confessed to killing Etan Patz 33 years ago on May 25 was charged with second-degree murder Friday.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced the charge just after 6:30 p.m. Friday against Pedro Hernandez, 51, who confessed to killing Etan Patz on Thursday.
“This is the beginning of the legal process, not the end," Vance said. "There is much investigative and other work ahead and it will be conducted in a measured and careful manner."
Hernandez was arraigned at Bellevue Hospital, where he is being held for psychiatric evaluation after doctors say he made suicidal statements.
In a taped confession, police say Hernandez revealed that he had lured Etan to the basement of a bodega where he worked back in 1979 by promising him a soda.
That location is now an eyewear store at 448 West Broadway.
"It's shocking for me because I work at the same, in this location, and I hope this person is really the culprit," said Joel Name of J.F. Rey Eyeglasses.
Hernandez confessed to strangling the boy, leaving his body in a bag near the garbage.
While there have been claims of responsibility in the past, this one appears to be credible.
At a press conference Thursday, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said a tip led to Hernandez's arrest.
"Earlier this month, the NYPD Missing Persons Squad received information from an individual which led them to identify Hernandez as a person of interest in Etan's disappearance on May 25, 1979," said Kelly. "In the years following Etan's disappearance, Hernandez had told a family member and others that he had, 'Done a bad thing and killed a child in New York.'"
After decades with false leads, the FBI dug up a SoHo basement last month looking for the body.
No remains were recovered.
However, the dig also brought new attention to the case and may have led to the tip about Hernandez.
The boy's father, Stanley Patz, said nothing to reporters as he entered his home Friday.
A former federal prosecutor who spoke with NY1 says prosecutors have a long road ahead to get a conviction, especially because it's likely the boy's body will never be found.
"Now they have to go and be able to prove that this confession is real," said Former U.S. Attorney Alan Vinegrad. "So now, they've got to go look for other witnesses, other physical evidence. Is there any scientific evidence that can tie into this crime? Did he make statements to other people over the years in which he acknowledged what he did? Conceivably the police can go back and try to find witnesses that where there at the time."
In his confession, Hernandez did not indicate a motive for the killing, but the police commissioner said there was no indication of sexual assault.
A man who says he knew a then-19-year-old Hernandez back in 1979 is among those reacting to the news.
"He was always in the neighborhood, always around that corner. He said that he did extra jobs for people in the neighborhood. He was very reserved. He was very...he wasn't friendly, but he wasn't not friendly," said SoHo resident Roberto Monticello.
"If this guy did it, then you know any time justice is served, that's good," said another SoHo resident.
"I was living in the neighborhood when it happened, in fact they searched my apartment at the time as they did everybody's apartment. I can't imagine this is going to give any more closure," a third SoHo resident noted.
Police say Hernandez moved to New Jersey shortly after Etan's disappearance.
A neighbor who lives near his home in Maple Shade says he and his family mostly keep to themselves.
Neighbors say Hernandez lives with his wife and a daughter who attends college.