Pedro Hernandez was sentenced Tuesday to 25 years to life in prison for killing Etan Patz. The 56-year-old former store clerk was also given 25 years to life for kidnapping, with both sentences to run concurrently.
It was a different time when the 6-year-old walked alone to catch the school bus in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood on May 25, 1979. His disappearance sparked decades of investigation and helped create a generation of wary parents.
Hernandez confessed to the murder in 2012, saying he lured the little boy with the promise of a soda. He said once he got the child into the basement of the neighborhood store where Hernandez worked, he choked him and left his body in a box on the curb.
Patz’s body has never been found. Hernandez’s lawyers argued their client is mentally ill and made false confessions under police pressure.
A previous trial for Hernandez ended in a mistrial in 2015. In February, he was found guilty of second-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping.
Patz became one of the first missing children to be pictured on milk cartons. And his case helped launch a national hotline for missing children. The anniversary of his disappearance, May 25, is designated as National Missing Children’s Day.