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Etan Patz suspect indicted on murder, kidnapping charges

NYPD via AP file

Etan Patz vanished in New York on May 25, 1979. Despite an extensive search, his body was never found.

A grand jury has indicted a former SoHo bodega clerk on charges he lured 6-year-old Etan Patz into a basement and killed him 33 years ago, sources familiar with the case told NBC 4 New York.

Pedro Hernandez is charged with murder and kidnapping, the sources said.

Hernandez, who has a history of mental illness, was arrested last spring, decades after Patz disappeared off a SoHo street in a tragic case that has mystified New York City.

Previous story: Grand jury considers charges in Etan Patz disappearance

Police said Hernandez had admitted to luring Patz into a bodega where he worked, near the boy's house, and choking him to death in the basement.    

Hernandez's attorney, Harvey Fishbein, said the trial would not solve the mystery of what happened to Patz.

Hernandez, he said, suffers from schizophrenia and has hallucinations. Fishbein said the entire case is based on statements made by his mentally ill client.

"The statements alleged by the people are not supported by any evidence whatsoever despite extraordinary investigative efforts by the police, back then and now," Fishbein said.

Read the indictment here (PDF)

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said at the time that police focused on Hernandez, who now lives in Maple Shade, N.J., after the Missing Persons Squad received a tip from someone who remembered Hernandez speaking of having killed a child.

A spokeswoman for the Manhattan District Attorney said the grand jury found sufficient evidence to charge Hernandez and that the office believes the case should go to trial.

"This indictment is the outcome of a lengthy and deliberative process, involving months of factual investigation and legal analysis," said spokeswoman Erin Duggan.

Jonathan Dienst is WNBC’s chief investigative correspondent. Shimon Prokupecz is a WNBC investigative producer.