Etan Patz went missing on May 25, 1979.
Pedro Hernandez who was charged with second-degree murder yesterday, told cops he had never seen Etan before that day — but once he spotted him, “I knew he was the one . . . [I] just felt the urge to kill,” according to a law-enforcement source.
Hernandez then placed Etan’s body in a bag, took it about a block and a half away and left it “with the trash,” Kelly said.
Yesterday’s arrest of the married New Jersey dad — who was 18 when Etan was killed — brought a sense of closure to the boy’s long-suffering parents.
Stan and Julie Patz were out of the city, but cops informed them of the dramatic development. “Mr. Patz was taken aback, a little surprised and overwhelmed,” said Lt. Christopher Zimmerman, head of the NYPD’s Missing Persons Squad.
Hernandez’s name was included in a detective’s report when the case broke, but was not questioned until Wednesday.
The cancer-stricken Hernandez, a churchgoing teetotaler, was identified as a suspect in the past month by a member of his family after news broke that investigators were digging up a former handyman’s basement on Prince Street in late April.
Nothing was found there, but the search prompted Hernandez’s brother-in-law, José Lopez, to call the NYPD and tell them that Hernandez had admitted killing an unnamed child shortly after Etan vanished, sources said.
Hernandez first told relatives in 1981 he “had done a bad thing and killed a child in New York,” Kelly said.
Hernandez was picked up Wednesday at his home in Maple Shade, NJ, where he lives with his college-student daughter, Becky, 20, and his second wife, Rosemary.
And police sources described Hernandez as being “beyond aloof, very mechanical and matter of fact,” during his interrogation.
In a bizarre twist, he signed his name on Etan’s missing poster as a sign of guilt while in custody yesterday, the sources said.
Hernandez revealed that besides telling Lopez about it, he also confessed to a “spiritual adviser,” authorities said.
NYPD cops took Hernandez to New York on Wednesday night, and yesterday brought him to the former bodega at 448 West Broadway. It’s now a designer eyewear shop.
Hernandez gave them a detailed account of the alleged crime.
Kelly said Hernandez was “remorseful” and seemed to have “a feeling of relief” after confessing. He added there’s no physical evidence, but “we believe this is the individual responsible for the crime.”
May 25, 1979, was the first day Etan was allowed to walk to the bus stop by himself. His mom sent him on his way after giving him a dollar to buy a soft drink at a bodega.
He was last seen headed toward the bus stop at Prince Street and West Broadway — in front of Hernandez’s home at 438 West Broadway, where his sister still lives.
Hernandez told cops his father whipped him with a horse-hair brush as a kid.