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Police Arrest Man Who Implicated Self In Etan Patz Case

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Police have arrested a new person of interest and plan to charge him in connection with the disappearance of Etan Patz.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said 51-year-old Pedro Hernandez is now in custody and has made statements to NYPD detectives implicating himself in the disappearance and death of the young boy in 1979.

In a press conference Thursday evening, Kelly said that Hernandez was brought to the scene of the crime Wednesday night after being questioned in New Jersey.

According to Kelly, Hernandez told law enforcement officials about how he lured Patz away from his bus stop with the promise of a soda.

Kelly said that Hernandez told police that he choked Patz in the basement of a bodega he worked at, put his body in a plastic bag and left him in a dumpster.

"We believe that this is the individual responsible for the crime," Kelly said.

At the time of the incident, Hernandez lived in a West Broadway apartment and had worked as a stock worker at a Manhattan bodega for approximately one month.

Kelly said that Hernandez told several family members about the crime in the years following Patz's disappearance.

A publicized attempt by the NYPD and FBI to dig up evidence from the case in a basement in April caused an individual to give information to the NYPD missing persons squad. That information allowed the department to identify Hernandez as a person of interest in the case.

The police commissioner said that police have both a written signed confession and approximately three-and-a-half hours of videotaped statements from Hernandez.

"We can only hope these developments will bring some measure of peace to the family," Kelly said.

Sources say authorities do have some doubts about Hernandez's story.

Law enforcement officials say Hernandez has been linked to the case in the past.

"It's a case that, to his credit, [Manhattan] District Attorney Cy Vance reopened in hopes not only of bringing justice but also offering some closure to Etan's parents," Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters Thursday. "As a father I just can't imagine what they've gone through and I certainly hope they are one step closer to bringing them some measure of relief."

The latest developments come just a month after the FBI dug up a SoHo basement looking for Etan's body.

No human remains were found and the search did not yield any obvious evidence.

Hernandez moved to New Jersey shortly after Etan's disappearance.

Dan Wollick, who lives near Hernandez in Maple Shade, says he and his family mostly keep to themselves.

"I knew him, I talked to him to say hello," Wollick said. "He seemed like an alright guy. He had a wife and there was a young daughter. And they were, you know, they said hello and everything, they were always smiling. Well if this guy like they say confessed to it, 33 years, he's been living in his own personal hell."

Neighbors say Hernandez lives with his wife and a daughter who attends college.

SoHo residents dealt with the fallout from the arrest announcement Thursday night.

Joel Name, who owns the JF Ray Eyewear Design that was once the bodega where Patz is alleged to have been killed, was distraught.

"It's shocking for me because I worked in this location," he said. ""After so many years, I hope he's the real culprit and he has to pay for his deeds."

Roberto Monticello was 16 at the time of Patz's disappearance and remembered a 19-year-old Hernandez.

He called Hernandez strange and believe he was capable of this awful crime.

"He was not there, if you know what I mean," Monticello said. "There was something. You could not be friends with him."

Although convicted child molester Jose Ramos was suspected in the disappearance, and Brooklyn handyman Othneil Miller was also eyed during last month's search, no one has ever been prosecuted in the case.

Hernandez will be arraigned Friday.

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