Six-year-old Etan Patz disappeared from a New York City school bus stop in 1979.
New York Police Department
Six-year-old Etan Patz disappeared from a New York City school bus stop in 1979.

Story highlights

Etan Patz disappeared in 1979, and his case turned a spotlight on missing children

His remains have never been found, and the case was open for decades

A man confessed last May to killing Etan; his lawyer calls the comments "not reliable"

A judge denies a defense bid to dismiss the case, so a murder trial will proceed

(CNN) —  

The murder case will proceed against Pedro Hernandez – accused of killing 6-year-old Etan Patz, who disappeared on his way to a New York City school bus stop in 1979 – after a judge on Wednesday denied a motion to dismiss the case, a court official said.

Judge Maxwell Wiley determined that there was enough evidence for the case against Hernandez to proceed, according to the judge’s clerk’s office.

The defendant’s lawyer, Harvey Fishbein, said that while he believes Hernandez shouldn’t face murder charges, he’s not surprised by the decision.

Missing child case ‘awakened America’

“It’s highly unlikely for a judge to dismiss a case like this,” Fishbein said.

Patz’s plight catapulted concern for missing children to the national forefront after authorities put his image on thousands of milk cartons, a technique that would become more common in the next few years.

Hernandez confessed in May 2012 to killing Patz more than three decades ago, when he was a stock clerk in Lower Manhattan.

Police said Hernandez admitted he choked the boy after luring him into the basement of the bodega where he worked, which Etan would pass en route to the bus. The boy’s body was then put in a garbage bag and thrown away, Hernandez allegedly told authorities. The remains were never found.

Hernandez’s lawyer has said his client falsely confessed, saying his statements to police “are not reliable.”

Moreover, Fishbein has claimed Hernandez was repeatedly diagnosed with schizophrenia and that he has “an IQ in the borderline-to-mild mental retardation range.”

In November, a grand jury indicted Hernandez on second-degree murder and kidnapping charges. He pleaded not guilty in court the next month.

Etan Patz murder suspect pleads not guilty