NEW YORK (AP) — Three boxes of evidence from the investigation into the 1979 disappearance of Etan Patz have turned up while a suspect is on trial for the killing, and his attorney said Monday that she may have to seek a mistrial or at least recall witnesses who have already testified.
Alice Fontier, one of the attorneys representing Pedro Hernandez, said there were more than 1,400 pages of relevant information in one box alone.
“Given this massive disclosure at this point, in the middle of the trial, there may be issues,” she said. “We may need to recall some of their witnesses, we may need to move for a mistrial,” she said.
The boxes were found recently at a Harlem police station that covers public housing complexes in Harlem, prosecutors said late last week. The location is miles from the precinct near where Etan went missing May 25, 1979, as he walked to school. They contain police records from the investigation, notes from assistant district attorneys who worked on the case and handwritten memos from a detective who investigated Jose Ramos, a longtime suspect in the case who was never charged. Some of the information involves two informants who were working with prosecutors to try to link Ramos to Etan’s death. Other boxes contain missing-person posters, records of people arrested and catalogs of files made by the original detective on the case.
“There appears to be hundreds of pages of handwritten notes,” Fontier said.
Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzi-Orbon said last week the boxes had been discovered and prosecutors were working to turn over the information to the defense attorneys. They are still working on copying one box full, she said Monday.
Hernandez confessed in 2012 to choking Etan in the basement of the convenience store where he worked as a stock clerk. He told police he put the boy’s body in a bag, stuck the bag in a box and walked it down the street where he dumped it with some curbside trash. His defense says the admissions were the fictional ravings of a mentally ill man with a low IQ who didn’t understand his right to silence.
Hernandez’s defense plans to call some people involved with the investigation into Ramos, a convicted child molester who remains jailed on a Megan’s Law violation.