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NEW YORK (AP) — A man authorities say confessed to the infamous 1979 disappearance of a 6-year-old boy from his New York City neighborhood has been formally charged with murder and kidnapping, a major milestone in a case that has stymied investigators and Etan Patz's devoted family for decades.
The indictment against Pedro Hernandez, 51, of Maple Shade, N.J., was made public Wednesday and sets up a potential showdown at trial over whether prosecutors can convince a jury that his claim that he strangled the boy — a secret kept for more than 30 years — is credible.
The suspect's attorney has argued that Hernandez, who is due Thursday in state court in Manhattan on second-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping charges, is mentally ill and prone to hallucinations, and that his confession can't be trusted.
"Nothing that occurs in the course of this trial will answer what actually happened to Etan Patz," defense attorney Harvey Feinstein said in a statement. "The indictment is based solely on statements allegedly made by my client, who has, in the past, been repeatedly diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia."
Prosecutors countered that an exhaustive post-arrest investigation found enough evidence to seek an indictment and proceed to trial.