Judge: Confession can be used in missing boy trial

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Pedro Hernandez - Missing Boy Etan Patz Case
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Judge: Confession can be used in missing boy trial
FILE - In this May 18, 1985 file photo, Stanly Patz, along with his son Ari, holds a photo of his son Etan, in New York. Etan Patz vanished in 1979 after leaving his family’s SoHo home for a short walk to his school bus stop. On Thursday, April 19, 2012, investigators began searching a basement near the Patz's apartment for human remains of the boy. (AP Photo/Ron Frehm, File)
This 1979 photo provided by the New York City Police Department shows a missing child poster for Etan Patz. New York City Police and the FBI began digging up a New York basement Thursday, April 19, 2012 for the remains of the 6-year-old boy whose 1979 disappearance on his way to school helped launch a missing children's movement that put kids' faces on milk cartons. (AP Photo/New York City Police Department)
Pedro Hernandez's defense lawyer Harvey Fisbein speaks to the media at a court in New York on January 30, 2015 at the lunch break of his client's trial in accusation of kidnapping and killing six-year-old Etan Patz in one of America's most famous missing child cases. Hernandez, 53, is accused of luring Etan Patz into the basement of the grocery store where he worked, before killing and dumping his body out with the trash on May 25, 1979. AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Becky Hernandez, left, daughter of Pedro Hernandez, and her mother Rosemary Hernandez leave at the end of the day in the trial of Pedro Hernandez, who is accused of kidnapping and killing 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979, Tuesday, April 28, 2015, in New York. Jurors have not yet reached a verdict in a notorious 1979 missing boy case and will return to a Manhattan court for deliberations on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Stanley Patz, father of Etan Patz, and his daughter Shira Patz, left, arrive at Manhattan Supreme Court, Monday, March 9, 2015, in New York. Becky Hernandez, 25, daughter of Pedro Hernandez, Monday about her father's unusual behavior in an effort to show that he is mentally ill. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
In this courtroom sketch, defense attorney for defendant Pedro Hernandez, Harvey Fishbein delivers his opening statement in New York state Supreme Court, Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. Fishbein said that defendant Pedro Hernandez "cannot distinguish between what is real and what is not." Hernandez, accused of killing 6-year-old Etan Patz. Etan was last seen alive walking to the bus stop in 1979. His body has never been found. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams)
In this courtroom sketch, defendant Pedro Hernandez, accused of killing 6-year-old Etan Patz, listens to opening statements in New York state Supreme Court, Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. His attorney, Harvey Fishbein, said that defendant Hernandez "cannot distinguish between what is real and what is not." Etan was last seen alive walking to the bus stop in 1979. His body has never been found. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams)
In this courtroom sketch, Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi Orbon delivers her opening statement in the case of Pedro Hernandez, accused of killing 6-year-old Etan Patz, in New York state Supreme Court, Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. Etan was last seen alive walking to the bus stop in 1979. His body has never been found. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams)
FILE - This May 28, 2012, file photo shows a newspaper with a photograph of Etan Patz at a makeshift memorial in the SoHo neighborhood of New York where Patz lived before his disappearance on May 25, 1979. The memorial was set up near a building that housed a convenience store where Pedro Hernandez, accused of killing Patz, told police 33 years after they boy's disappearance, that he choked the 6-year-old and put the still-living boy into a plastic bag, boxed up the bag and left it on a street. Opening statements in Hernandez's trial are set for Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
A spokesman for the group NAMBLA said a photograph seized in a police raid is not that of Etan Patz, a young boy who disappeared from the streets of New York 3½ years, ago at a press conference in New York, Dec. 29, 1982. Spokesman David Thorstead, center, shows the 1968 “Boyhood Calendar” from which the photograph in question came. With him are spokesman David Ingalls, left, and the lawyer for the group, Michael J. Larey, at right. (AP Photo/G. Paul Burnett)
Julie and Stan Patz stand on the fire escape of their loft in the Soho area of New York City, March 1980. The Patz's son Etan, set off for school from home on May 25, 1979 and has not been seen since. Although police on the case have turned up nothing, the Patzes believe Etan is alive and will one day come home. (AP Photo)
FILE - In this March 17, 1980 file photo, Stan and Julie Patz stand on the 2nd-floor fire escape of the of their loft in the Soho neighborhood of New York. Below them runs Prince Street, along which Etan, their 6-year-old son, set off to school on May 25, 1979, and has not been seen since. On Thursday, April 19, 2012, a team of police officers and FBI agents started to begin tearing apart the basement of a building about a block from where the family lived as part of the decades-old investigation into the disappearance of the boy. Authorities have not said whatevidence led them to that location. (AP Photo/Marty Reichenthal, File)
FILE - In this May 2012 file photo obtained by The Associated Press, murder suspect Pedro Hernandez is shown. Attorney Harvey Fishbein says Hernandez, 51, is being charged in the disappearance of Etan Patz. Hernandez, of Maple Shade, N.J., was arrested this year and investigators say he confessed. Patz's disappearance led to an intensive search and spawned a movement to publicize cases of missing children. His photo was among the first put on milk cartons, and his case turned May 25 into National Missing Children's Day. (AP Photo)
FILE - In this Nov. 15, 2012 file photo, Pedro Hernandez, right, appears in Manhattan criminal court with his attorney, Harvey Fishbein, in New York. Hernandez, who confessed to killing a long-missing New York City boy Etan Patz, has filed papers on Wednesday, April 17, 2013, to throw out the murder case against him. Fishbein says the man's confession was false and argues there's not enough evidence to support it. (AP Photo/Louis Lanzano, Pool, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 15, 2012 file photo, Pedro Hernandez appears in Manhattan criminal court in New York. Hernandez is charged with killing 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979, but a Manhattan judge must decide whether his murder confession in one of the nation’s most haunting child disappearances can be used at a potential trial. Hernandez confessed on hours of video but his lawyer Harvey Fishbein says the admissions were illegal because he didn’t understand his Miranda rights. He says the confession is false, and defense experts have said Hernandez has a mental disorder. (AP Photo/Louis Lanzano, Pool, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2014, file photo, Julie Patz, mother of Etan Patz, leaves a courtroom in New York. Pedro Hernandez, who is accused of killing Patz, told police 33 years after they boy's 1979 disappearance, that he choked the 6-year-old and put the still-living boy into a plastic bag, boxed up the bag and left it on a street. Opening statements in Hernandez's trial are set for Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
New York police spokesman Paul Browne holds up an original Etan Patz missing person poster while speaking to reporters near an apartment building in Soho, Thursday, April 19, 2012 in New York. Police officers and FBI agents began tearing apart a New York City basement Thursday as part of a decades-old investigation into the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz, who vanished May 25, 1979, after leaving his family's Manhattan apartment for a short walk to catch a school bus. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Robert Gottlieb, center, lawyer for the family of Pedro Hernandez, who is charged with 1979 killing of Etan Patz, speaks during a news conference outside court on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 in New York. Hernandez was in court for a brief proceeding and ordered held without bail until his next court date set for Dec. 12. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Harvey Fishbein, lawyer for Pedro Hernandez, who is charged with 1979 killing of Etan Patz, speaks during a news conference outside court on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 in New York. Hernandez was in court for a brief proceeding and ordered held without bail until his next court date set for Dec. 12. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Rosemary Hernandez, center, the wife of Pedro Hernandez, who is charged with killing a New York City boy in 1979, leaves court with their daughter Becky, second from right, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 in New York. Pedro Hernandez, who confessed in May to killing 6-year-old Etan Patz, was in court for a brief proceeding and ordered held without bail until his next court date, set for Dec. 12, when he is expected to enter a plea. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Stan Patz, father of Etan Patz, leaves a courtroom in New York, Monday, Sept. 15, 2014. The videotaped confession of Pedro Hernandez, who admitted killing 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979, is expected to be played in court as a Manhattan judge determines whether it is fair game for the suspect's murder trial. The hearing that begins Monday is expected to last several weeks to determine whether Pedro Hernandez's statements are admissible in the case. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Stan Patz, father of Etan Patz, center, returns to the courtroom after a break in New York, Monday, Sept. 15, 2014. The videotaped confession of Pedro Hernandez, who admitted killing 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979, is expected to be played in court as a Manhattan judge determines whether it is fair game for the suspect's murder trial. The hearing that begins Monday is expected to last several weeks to determine whether Pedro Hernandez's statements are admissible in the case. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Julie Patz, mother of Etan Patz, leaves a courtroom in New York, Monday, Sept. 15, 2014. The videotaped confession of Pedro Hernandez, who admitted killing 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979, is expected to be played in court as a Manhattan judge determines whether it is fair game for the suspect's murder trial. The hearing that begins Monday is expected to last several weeks to determine whether Pedro Hernandez's statements are admissible in the case. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
A satellite television truck parks outside a residential storefront building at the corner of Prince Street and Broadway, after an earlier police search of the building in the ongoing Etan Patz investigation on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012 in the Soho section of New York. Police investigating the 1979 disappearance of the 6-year-old Patz said Pedro Hernandez of Maple Shade, N.J., told them he lured the boy into the location when it was a shop, with the promise of a soda. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
A photograph of Etan Patz hangs on an angel figurine, which is part of a makeshift memorial in the SoHo neighborhood of New York, Monday, May 28, 2012. For prosecutors, the work is just beginning after the astonishing arrest last week of a man who police say confessed to strangling the 6-year-old New York City boy 33 years ago in one of the nation's most bewildering missing children's cases. Pedro Hernandez, 51, was charged with second-degree murder in the 1979 death of Etan Patz, based largely on a signed confession he gave to detectives. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
A pedestrian points as she walk past a makeshift memorial to Etan Patz, who was six when he disappeared in 1979, in New York, Sunday, May 27, 2012. The memorial sprung up at the site where, according to police, suspect Pedro Hernandez, now 51, claims the murder took place. The metal sidewalk doors lead to a basement where Hernandez, who was 18 at the time and an employee of a bodega, said he murdered the boy. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
A makeshift memorial for Etan Patz, a 6 year-old boy who disappeared in 1979, sits where police say suspect Pedro Hernandez, charged with the child's murder, claims the murder took place, Sunday, May 27, 2012 in New York. Police say the boy died in the basement of the bodega where Hernandez worked. Hernandez, now 51, was 18 at the time. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
A photograph of Etan Patz is on a newspaper which is part of a makeshift memorial in the SoHo neighborhood of New York, Monday, May 28, 2012. For prosecutors, the work is just beginning after the astonishing arrest last week of a man who police say confessed to strangling the 6-year-old New York City boy 33 years ago in one of the nation's most bewildering missing children's cases. Pedro Hernandez, 51, was charged with second-degree murder in the 1979 death of Etan Patz, based largely on a signed confession he gave to detectives. The steel hatch doors, center, lead to the basement where Hernandez claims he murdered the boy. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Stan Patz, father of missing child Etan Patz, arrives at his home in SoHo, Friday, May 25, 2012, in New York. New life has been breathed into the case after Pedro Hernandez implicated himself in the death of 6-year-old Etan Patz, whose disappearance 33 years ago on his way to school helped launch a missing children's movement that put kids' faces on milk cartons. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Supporters of the Patz family leave flowers on their doorstep in SoHo, Friday, May 25, 2012, in New York. New life has been breathed into the missing child case of Etan Patz after Pedro Hernandez implicated himself in the boy's death of the 6-year-old, whose disappearance 33 years ago on his way to school helped launch a missing children's movement that put kids' faces on milk cartons. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
RETRANSMISSION TO CORRECT LOCATION - Supporters of the Patz family leave flowers by the basement entrance to the former SoHo bodega, Friday, May 25, 2012, in New York. New life has been breathed into the missing child case of Etan Patz after Pedro Hernandez implicated himself in the boy's death of the 6-year-old, whose disappearance 33 years ago on his way to school helped launch a missing children's movement that put kids' faces on milk cartons. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
In this courtroom drawing, Pedro Hernandez, second right, is arraigned at Manhattan Criminal Court before Judge Matthew Sciarrino Jr., via closed circuit television from Bellevue Hospital in New York, Friday, May 25, 2012. Hernandez, who worked in a local convenience store at the time, is charged with murdering 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979. In the lower left corner of the monitor is Hernandez’s attorney, Harvey Fishbein. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams)
Supporters of the Patz family leave flowers on their doorstep in SoHo, Saturday, May 26, 2012, in New York. New life has been breathed into the case after Pedro Hernandez implicated himself in the death of 6-year-old Etan Patz, whose disappearance 33 years ago on his way to school helped launch a missing children's movement that put kids' faces on milk cartons. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Stan Patz, father of missing child Etan Patz, arrives at his home in SoHo, Friday, May 25, 2012, in New York. New life has been breathed into the case after Pedro Hernandez implicated himself in the death of 6-year-old Etan Patz, whose disappearance 33 years ago on his way to school helped launch a missing children's movement that put kids' faces on milk cartons. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Members of the media take video on the doorstep of the Patz family home in SoHo, Saturday, May 26, 2012, in New York. New life has been breathed into the case after Pedro Hernandez implicated himself in the death of 6-year-old Etan Patz, whose disappearance 33 years ago on his way to school helped launch a missing children's movement that put kids' faces on milk cartons. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Supporters of the Patz family leave flowers on their doorstep in SoHo, Friday, May 25, 2012, in New York. New life has been breathed into the missing child case of Etan Patz after Pedro Hernandez implicated himself in the 6-year-old's death, whose disappearance 33 years ago on his way to school helped launch a missing children's movement that put kids' faces on milk cartons. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Stan Patz, father of missing child Etan Patz, arrives at his home in SoHo, Friday, May 25, 2012, in New York. New life has been breathed into the case after Pedro Hernandez implicated himself in the death of 6-year-old Etan Patz, whose disappearance 33 years ago on his way to school helped launch a missing children's movement that put kids' faces on milk cartons. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Chuck Diehm talks about his neighbor, Pedro Hernandez, Friday, May 25, 2012, in Maple Shade, N.J. Hernandez, who lives next door, upstairs with his wife and teenage daughter, was picked up late Wednesday in Camden, N.J., in connection with the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979. Police said Thursday that Hernandez has implicated himself in the boy's death. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Jeannie Cool talks about her neighbor, Pedro Hernandez, Friday, May 25, 2012 in Maple Shade, N.J. Hernandez, who lives next door, upstairs with his wife and teenage daughter, was picked up late Wednesday in Camden, N.J., in connection with the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979. Police said Thursday that Hernandez has implicated himself in the boy's death. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
The home of Pedro Hernandez, is seen Friday, May 25, 2012 in Maple Shade, N.J. Hernandez, who lives upstairs with his wife and teenage daughter, was picked up late Wednesday in Camden, N.J., in connection with the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979. Police said Thursday that Hernandez has implicated himself in the boy's death. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
CORRECTS LOCATION-Dan Wollick looks at a newspaper in front of his house with a cover story about his upstairs neighbor, Pedro Hernandez, Friday, May 25, 2012, in Maple Shade, N.J. Hernandez, who Wollick says lives upstairs with his wife and teenage daughter, was picked up late Wednesday in Camden, N.J., in connection with the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979. Police said Thursday that Hernandez has implicated himself in the boy's death. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Chuck Diehm talks about his neighbor, Pedro Hernandez, Friday, May 25, 2012 in Maple Shade, N.J. Hernandez, who lives next door, upstairs with his wife and teenage daughter, was picked up late Wednesday in Camden, N.J., in connection with the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979. Police said Thursday that Hernandez has implicated himself in the boy's death. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Rev. George Bowen Jr., of Maranatha Christian Fellowship church, poses for a photograph after talking about a member of his church, Pedro Hernandez, Friday, May 25, 2012 in Moorestown, N.J. Hernandez was picked up late Wednesday in Camden, N.J., in connection with the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979. Police said Thursday that Hernandez has implicated himself in the boy's death. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Norma Hernandez answers a question as she stands in the doorway of her home in Camden, N.J., Tuesday, May 29, 2012. Hernandez says that she went to police in the 1980s with concerns that her brother Pedro Hernandez may have killed someone, but the police never followed-up with her. Pedro Hernandez confessed last week to the killing of 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979, and is now charged with his murder. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Norma Hernandez answers a question as she stands in the doorway of her home in Camden, N.J., Tuesday, May 29, 2012. Hernandez says that she went to police in the 1980s with concerns that her brother Pedro Hernandez may have killed someone, but the police never followed-up with her. Pedro Hernandez confessed last week to the killing of 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979, and is now charged with his murder. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Norma Hernandez answers a question as she stands in the doorway of her home in Camden, N.J., Tuesday, May 29, 2012. Hernandez says that she went to police in the 1980s with concerns that her brother Pedro Hernandez may have killed someone, but the police never followed-up with her. Pedro Hernandez confessed last week to the killing of 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979, and is now charged with his murder. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
A woman stops to pay her respects at a makeshift memorial next to a building where Etan Patz was reportedly killed 33 years ago in the SoHo neighborhood of New York, Monday, May 28, 2012. For prosecutors, the work is just beginning after the astonishing arrest last week of a man who police say confessed to strangling a 6-year-old New York City boy 33 years ago in one of the nation's most bewildering missing children's cases. Pedro Hernandez, 51, was charged with second-degree murder in the 1979 death of Etan Patz, based largely on a signed confession he gave to detectives. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
A notice to the media from Stan Patz, the father of Etan Patz who disappeared 33 years ago at age six, is posted in front of the building where the Patz family lives, in New York, May 29, 2012. Suspect Pedro Hernandez, 51, told police he strangled the boy after luring him 'with the promise of a soda' to the basement of the grocery store where he worked, close to a school bus stop where the child was last seen in 1979. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel Dunand (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/GettyImages)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 25: Wife Rosemary Hernandez (2nd L) and daughter Becky Hernandez (2nd R), of alleged Etan Patz murderer suspect Pedro Hernandez, walk away from a courthouse with a lawyer and a family friend before Pedro Hernandez's arraignment later in the day on May 25, 2012 in New York City. Patz was a 6-year-old boy when he disappeared on his way to his school bus stop in 1979. It is alleged that Pedro Hernandez used a soda to lure the boy down to a basement of a bodega, then strangled him. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 25: Daughter Becky Hernandez (2nd L) and wife Rosemary Hernandez (2nd R), of alleged Etan Patz murderer suspect Pedro Hernandez, walk away from a courthouse with a lawyer and a family friend before Pedro Hernandez's arraignment later in the day on May 25, 2012 in New York City. Patz was a 6-year-old boy when he disappeared on his way to his school bus stop in 1979. It is alleged that Pedro Hernandez used a soda to lure the boy down to a basement of a bodega, then strangled him. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 25: Daughter Becky Hernandez (2nd L) and wife Rosemary Hernandez (2nd R), of alleged Etan Patz murderer suspect Pedro Hernandez, walk away from a courthouse with a lawyer and a family friend before Pedro Hernandez's arraignment later in the day on May 25, 2012 in New York City. Patz was a 6-year-old boy when he disappeared on his way to his school bus stop in 1979. It is alleged that Pedro Hernandez used a soda to lure the boy down to a basement of a bodega, then strangled him. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 24: New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly arrives for a news conference at Police Headquarters May 24, 2012 in in New York City. Kelly announced the arrest of Pedro Hernandez, who police say confessed to the 1979 killing of six-year-old Etan Patz. (Photo by Allison Joyce/Getty Images)
Members of the FBI and the NYPD watch as a dumpsters are place in front of a building on the corner of Wooster Street and Prince Street in Manhattan during a renewed investigation into the 1979 disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz, on Friday, April 20, 2012 in New York. Patz vanished after leaving his family’s home for a short walk to his school bus stop. NYPD spokesman Paul Browne says the building being searched for his remains is about a block from where the family lived. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
A New York Police Department Crime Scene Unit van and an FBI Evidence Response Team van are parked next to the a building where investigators sought clues in the death of Etan Patz in the SoHo neighborhood of New York, April 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
FILE - In this Oct. 26, 1989 file photo, Patty Wetterling rests on the shoulder of her husband, Jerry, five days after their 11-year-old son Jacob was abducted by a masked man with a gun near thier St. Joseph, Minn., home. After 33 years, someone has confessed to killing 6-year-old Etan Patz. And people immediately start speaking of "closure." Patty Wetterling hates the word. Since 1989, she and her husband have writhed in the same hell as Stan and Julie Patz. "Once you're a victim of a crime like this, your life takes a very different direction," she says. "It doesn't really close anything, because everything just became different from that point on. But it does provide answers." (AP Photo/Jim Mone, file)
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NEW YORK (AP) - A suspect with a low IQ understood his rights when he told investigators two years ago that he choked a 6-year-old boy to death in 1979, a judge ruled Monday, allowing prosecutors to use the confession that appears to be their key evidence in a notorious missing children's case.

The 53-year-old suspect, Pedro Hernandez, has pleaded not guilty to killing 6-year-old Etan Patz, one of the first missing children ever pictured on a milk carton. He vanished while walking to his school bus stop. His defense has said his confession to the wrenching crime was imaginary.

State Supreme Court Justice Maxwell Wiley wasn't tasked with determining whether the admission was true - just whether it was obtained legally and whether Hernandez comprehended what he was doing when he waived his right to stay silent.

Wiley called Hernandez's waiver of his Miranda rights "knowing and intelligent." While Hernandez has a very low IQ, his overall performance on tests of how well he understood the rights, his decision to waive them and "his basic ability to make his way in the world over a period of almost 40 years compel this conclusion," the judge wrote.

After decades of investigation that stretched as far as Israel, Hernandez emerged as a suspect in 2012. He'd been a stock clerk at a store in Etan's neighborhood when the boy disappeared.

After more than six hours of questioning, he confessed on video, calmly telling investigators how he choked Etan in the store basement. He described putting the boy, who was still alive, into a plastic bag, then putting the bag inside a box and dumping it nearby.

"I was nervous; my legs were jumping," Hernandez said on the tape. "I wanted to let go, but I just couldn't let go. I felt like something just took over me. I don't know what to say. Something just took over me, and I was just choking him."

In the 1980s, Hernandez also allegedly told a prayer group and others that he'd harmed a child in New York.

The confession appears to be the key to the case. Authorities have not pointed to any physical or scientific evidence against Hernandez, and his defense has said there is none.

Jury selection is expected to start in early January, and Hernandez' attorney, Harvey Fishbein, stressed that it would be up to the jurors to decide whether the confession was true.

"We're looking forward to that, and we're ready to go," he said. "Anyone who sees these confessions will understand that when the police were finished with him, Mr. Hernandez believed that he killed Etan Patz - but that doesn't mean that he actually did."

Fishbein has said that Hernandez didn't have the mental capacity to understand his right to remain silent.

Hernandez' IQ, about 70, puts him in the bottom 2 percent of the population, a defense psychological expert testified during a weekslong hearing this fall.

Fishbein has said Hernandez's medical records mention schizophrenia dating back years, he has long taken anti-psychotic medication and since his arrest he's been diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder. Its effects on him include "cognitive and perceptual distortions," including hallucinations, Fishbein has said. In one of the confessions, Hernandez says he has had visions of his dead mother.

Prosecutors say the confession was real and properly obtained.

Etan's body was never found. The day he vanished became National Missing Children's Day.

His father, Stan Patz, declined to comment as he left court Monday.

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