The cops are buying it. The killer is the only person who knows all the facts in this case, but the cops know more than anybody else, having investigated the disappearance for 33 years. And they're saying very publicly that they believe Hernandez. The Times' Joseph Goldstein and William K. Rashbaum quoted New York Police Commisioner Ray Kelly, who spoke at a Thursday news conference: "He was remorseful, and I think the detectives thought that it was a feeling of relief on his part ... We believe that this is the individual responsible."
This is not the first time he's confessed. The Daily Beast notes that Hernandez had actually first confessed at the time of Etan's disapperance, but police didn't believe him. "Detectives interviewed Hernandez at that time, the source says, and he confessed to the crime. But the detectives deemed this first confession to be 'the raving of a lunatic,' in part because he told them that he had put the body in a box and stashed it someplace only for it to disappear." And who would believe a body could just disappear from plain sight without anybody noticing?
He told family members in the past. A tipster who put police on Hernandez's trail most recently said he had actually confided in family members for years. Agence France-Presse reports: "Following the media frenzy over last month's search of the basement, a tipster came forward, Kelly said, and told police that Hernandez had talked about killing a child ... He had 'told family and others that he had 'done a bad thing and killed a child in New York,' Kelly said."
Reasons to doubt
There's no body or motive. Without a body it's nearly impossible to conclude with 100 percent certainty that someone has died at all. NewsBeast reports Etan's body most likely got picked up by a sanitation truck, which would "make it all but impossible" to ever find his remains. "With the absence of a body or other physical evidence, a case against Hernandez would rest upon the confession and any statements he may have made to relatives and acquaintances." And Dwyer's source tells him Hernandez "doesn’t give any motivation in the statement ... The admission was totally unsolicited.”
Patz's parents think it was someone else. A convicted Pennsylvania pedophile told investigators in the late 1980s that he had lured Etan into his apartment but released him without harm, the Philadelphia Inquirer reminds us. The convict, Jose Ramos, was never charged with Etan's death, but he did lose a civil case the Patzes brought. Twice a year Stanley Patz, Etan's father, sends Ramos a missing poster with the phrase "What did you do to my little boy?" written on the back.
The timing couldn't be better. Friday marks the 33rd anniversary of Etan's disappearance, and the case was already in the news after police in April started digging up a SoHo basement they thought could hold Etan's body. Even though a tipster gave Hernandez up, he confessed willingly, which is not something people usually do unless they want to be known. The Guardian points out the history of false confessions: "It should be noted that police have been here before. The anniversary of Etan's death tends to draw out apparent confessions from troubled individuals, and an excavation of a SoHo basement last month prompted a wave of new publicity."