Abduction and Murder Case of Etan Patz Resolved after 38 Years

Phil Pulaski

Phil Pulaski

Phil Pulaski has 36 years of law enforcement experience, and was Chief of Detectives of the NYPD for more than 5 years. As Chief Detectives, Phil Pulaski was responsible for more than 3,600 personnel who, during 2013, investigated more than 256,000 felony and misdemeanor crimes (including 335 homicides), and arrested more than 39,000 offenders. While he was Chief of Detectives, he successfully managed scores of major investigations including murdered police officers, shot police officers, serial killers, civilian deaths resulting from police action, quadruple homicides, missing persons, mass casualty incidents and pattern sex assaults. Among the most famous high profile investigations that Phil Pulaski managed involved the 1979 kidnapping and murder of a young boy Etan Patz.

Etan Patz was a six year old boy who disappeared on his way to school in the SoHo neighborhood of lower Manhattan on his birthday, May 25, 1979. His disappearance helped launch the “missing children movement” that resulted in new legislation and new methods for tracking down missing children. The New York Times described the shock from the abduction as “reverberating across America.” Several years after he disappeared, Patz was the first child to be profiled on the “photo on a milk carton” campaigns of the early 1980s. In 1983, President Reagan designated May 25—the anniversary of Etan’s disappearance—as National Missing Children’s Day in the United States.

The breakthrough in the case involved the brother-in-law of suspect Pedro Hernandez contacting the NYPD in April 2012, with the suspicion that Hernandez might be responsible. NYPD detectives from the Major Case Squad and Missing Persons Squad skillfully interviewed Hernandez at a location in New Jersey near his home. The suspect ultimately confessed and described the way he had murdered a boy he had lured from outside the Prince Street bodega, where the parents still live, by offering him a soda. Hernandez was arrested on May 25, 2012, the 33rd anniversary of Etan’s disappearance, and charged with 2nd degree murder and 1st degree kidnapping.

Hernandez’s trial began in January 2015 and ended in a mistrial that May, when one of the 12 jurors held out. The retrial began on October 19, 2016, and concluded on February 14, 2017, after nine days of deliberations, when the jury found Hernandez guilty of murder and kidnapping. Hernandez was sentenced to 25-years-to-life in prison on April 18, 2017.