Jury Selection Begins in Etan Patz Murder Trial

Stranger abductions are rare. Of the approximately 800,000 children reported missing in 1999, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the overwhelming majority were either runaways or children who had simply failed to communicate their whereabouts to their parents. About a quarter of children reported missing are abducted by a family member, typically a non-custodial parent. Another 58,000 were abducted by non-family members. Of those 800,000 missing children, only 115 were the victims of the random, stranger abductions we often think of when we hear the term "kidnapping." In these cases, a child was taken by a stranger, abducted with the intent to kill or keep the child. In more than three-quarters of these cases, according to 2006 statistics, the abducted child was dead within three hours of being kidnapped. The chances of an American child becoming the victim of a "stereotypical" kidnapping is astronomically small. The NCMEC reports that approximately 100 children are murdered in an abduction each year, compared with a U.S. child population of 73.6 million. Yet even though these cases are rare, they are particularly terrifying for parents and children. Every time a kidnapping occurs, we are reminded of the how quickly just such a nightmare can unfold. Some 35 years after the previously unsolved kidnapping and murder of 6-year-old Etan Patz, a suspect will have his day in court. Etan went missing while walking to the school bus stop in 1979. Jury selection began today in the trial of Pedro Hernandez, who three years ago confessed to killing the boy. Hernandez became a suspect in the disappearance only after police received a tip in 2012. He told investigators that he choked Etan and put him in a plastic bag while he was still alive. He then put the bag containing the boy's body in a box and dumped it on the street.   Attorneys for Hernandez say their client's confession is false, triggered by the man's mental illness and low IQ. They say he had nothing to do with the boy's disappearance. The case of Etan Patz was one of the first highly publicized abductions. He was among the first missing children to appear on milk cartons, and the anniversary of his abduction is marked by National Missing Children's Day. Just two years after little Etan disappeared, another 6-year-old boy, Adam Walsh, was abducted from a department store just a few feet from where his mother shopped. Etan's body has never been found. Adam's severed head was found two weeks after his abduction. Though no one was convicted of Adam Walsh's murder, police in 2008 said the case was closed, convinced that his killer was Ottis Toole, a convicted serial killer who confessed to killing the boy but later recanted. Toole died in prison in 1996. These cases and others like them have triggered legislation, including sex offender registration requirements, to help prevent child abductions.

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