NEW YORK (FOX5NY) - Former store clerk Pedro Hernandez, 56, was found guilty Tuesday in the kidnapping and murder of Etan Patz 38 years ago. The jury had deliberated for nine days before reaching a decision in Hernandez's re-trial.
Etan disappeared on his walk to the school bus in his Manhattan neighborhood in May 1979.
The disappearance helped galvanize the modern-day missing-children's movement with his picture appearing on a milk carton.
Hernandez, of Maple Shade, New Jersey, confessed in 2012, more than three decades after the boy disappeared. But his lawyers argued he was mentally ill and his statements were fictional ravings.
Since a mistrial in 2015, Etan's parents have been outspoken about their belief that Hernandez is guilty.
Addressing the media after Tuesday's guilty verdict, Stanley Patz said he didn't expect the guilty verdict.
"I needed to know what happened to my son and this great prosecution team finally proved it," said Patz.
Some of the jurors from the first trial attended the second one, and several of them wept as the verdict was read. Stanley Patz was comforted by the ex-jurors and appeared to wipe tears from his eyes.
"The Patz family has waited a long time, but we've finally found some measure of justice for our wonderful little boy, Etan," Patz said afterward, choking up. "I'm really grateful that this jury finally came back with which I have known for a long time -- that this man, Pedro Hernandez, is guilty of doing something really terrible so many years ago. I am truly relieved, and I'll tell you, it's about time. It's about time."
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said the jury "affirmed beyond all lasting doubt that Pedro Hernandez kidnapped and killed the missing child" in "one of the city's most famous and formative cases."
Still, the Patz family -- which focused for years on another suspect before Hernandez' 2012 arrest -- and authorities may never know exactly what became of the boy. No trace of him has been found since the May day he vanished, on the first day he got the grown-up privilege of walking alone to the bus stop about two blocks away in a then-edgy but neighborly part of lower Manhattan.
Hernandez's lead lawyer, Harvey Fishbein, said he would appeal.
"In the end, we don't believe this will resolve the story of what happened to Etan back in 1979," Fishbein said.
With the Associated Press