Hernandez Wrote Confession on Photo of Etan Patz

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Photo: NYPD/AP

Police have reportedly found children's clothing and an old toy from the seventies in Pedro Hernandez's home, but the most important part of their case remains his own account. Last month, police said that Hernandez made both handwritten and videotaped confessions to the 1979 murder of 6-year-old Etan Patz, but they left out one detail. An anonymous law enforcement official tells the New York Times that Hernandez wrote his confession on a photograph of Patz. “They had him sign on the photograph, and write, ‘I killed him’ or ‘I strangled him,’” said the official.

While it adds an even more dramatic note to the confession, the signed photo actually underscores how difficult it will be to prosecute the case. Recently, a source told the Daily Beast that through the first hour of questioning, Hernandez insisted that he'd never seen the boy in the photo. It seems frustrated prosecutors may have pushed Hernandez to write his confession on the photograph so they'd have a compelling courtroom exhibit.  While a former FBI agent said Hernandez shared "confidential information" about Patz, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has said they don't expect to recover the boy's remains.

Other new leaks suggest authorities might be grasping at straws. The Times reports:

Another official said Mr. Hernandez told investigators he had frequently been beaten as a child. That detail could prove significant to prosecutors struggling to account for possible motives.

Yet, on its own, an abusive childhood doesn't really explain much. Sources have said repeatedly that Hernandez has provided no motive for the crime.

Meanwhile, Hernandez's family is beginning to present an alternate narrative (via their recently hired high-profile defense lawyer Robert Gottlieb). Hernandez's legal team has emphasized that he has a long history of mental instability and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Gottlieb says Hernandez's wife Rosemary “firmly believes the confession is unreliable and not believable," and “is incredulous that anyone would believe what he said, knowing his history of hallucinations and delusions, and other exhibited mental illnesses.”

Authorities continued to investigate the case this week, and spent Wednesday evening searching through Herandez's home. So far, there's been no news of any significant finds, and Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, wouldn't comment on how confident authorities are in Hernandez's guilt. “I’m not going to answer that question," he said, adding, “And not because I’m afraid to answer it. Just because it’s really premature for me to answer it at this time.”