(JTA) — A former grocery store clerk convicted of the 1979 kidnapping and murder of 6-year-old Etan Patz was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Pedro Hernandez, 56, of New Jersey, was sentenced Tuesday in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
Hernandez, who was found guilty in February after two trials, was given the maximum allowable sentence. He will not be eligible for parole for at least 25 years.
He did not look at Etan’s parents, Stan and Julie Patz, who were in the courtroom as he received his sentence, The Associated Press reported. Hernandez did not speak to the court.
“Pedro Hernandez, after all these years, we finally know what dark secret you had locked in your heart. I will never forgive you,” Stan Patz said in court before the sentencing, according to the AP. “The god you pray to will never forgive you. You are the monster in your own nightmares.”
Etan, who was Jewish, was one of the first missing children to be featured on the side of milk cartons. He disappeared in May 1979 while walking to his school bus stop two blocks from his home in the downtown SoHo section of New York for the first time by himself. Hernandez, then 18, worked nearby at a grocery store.
Hernandez was arrested based on a tip from a brother-in-law. He confessed in 2012 to having strangled Etan in the basement of the grocery store after luring him there with a soda, then putting the boy’s body in a box, which he left in an alley.
Hernandez’s defense attorneys said at the trial that Hernandez is mentally ill and the confessions were coerced. He also reportedly has a very low IQ.
Jose Ramos, a convicted pedophile, was declared responsible for Etan’s death in a 2004 civil case.
At the first trial of Hernandez, the defense argued that the evidence pointed to Ramos, not Hernandez. In 2004, Justice Barbara Kapnick declared Ramos liable by default after he declined to answer questions about the murder. He was questioned while serving time for raping young boys in Pennsylvania.