New York Police Department Commissions, Irish American, Ray Kelly
Photo by: Reuters
|NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly|
The Etan Patz murder 33 years ago was one of the most significant in America's crime history.
Nothing was ever the same again after the six-year-old left his parent's West Village apartment in New York to walk to school alone for the first time.
He never made it and his murder had never been solved.
Many crime experts date the explosion of fear in America over crime to that killing - the moment when we all felt less safe
Now it may become significant again for a very different reason.
Police Chief Ray Kelly has essentially accused a 51-year old, Pedro Hernandez, of carrying out the killing.
Except there is no evidence other than a confession by Hernandez whose family admits he has deep psychiatric problems.
There is no body, no witnesses, no physical evidence linking him to the crime.
If Hernandez withdraws his confession the police have no case.
Worse, a man called Jose Ramos, a convicted pedophile, was ruled to have committed the crime in a civil case by a Manhattan judge in 2004.
"Investigators both from federal prosecutors' office and the FBI over an extended period of time built up a tremendous amount of circumstantial evidence," Murray Weiss, a police reporter who covered the Patz case told CBS.
The lawyer for the Patzs , Brian O'Dwyer, said at the time that winning the lawsuit made it clear. "The point is to establish once and for all that Ramos is responsible for Etan's death."
So who is it, Hernandez or Ramos?
Or maybe it is someone else altogether; just a few weeks back cops tore apart a basement seeking to link a third man, Othniel Miller, to the killing.
They found nothing but Miller’s estranged wife claimed he confessed to the crime.
So that's three suspects right there.
When the Lindbergh child killing happened in 1932, over thirty delusional people admitted to the crime.
The Etan Patz case is getting just as crazy.
Ray Kelly may well have made a massive mistake here. First the press conference essentially announcing guilt, then the arrest, then the trial, then the verdict..
It is all backwards, like this tragic case has long been.
I believe it is a case almost impossible to solve bar some incredible evidence find.
"It's going to be very difficult to convince a jury," Larry Kobilinsky, a doctor of forensic science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told CBS .
"Normally we collect the physical evidence and talk to the witnesses; then we catch a suspect, interrogate him and then sometimes they confess," said Kobilinsky. "This is just the reverse."
He has it right.