Police stand guard in April of 2012 outside a New York City building thought to be the crime scene in the 1979 murder of a 6-year-old boy. Investigators searched the basement of the SoHo building looking for evidence in the Etan Patz case.
Shelby Lin Erdman
Cox Media Group National Content Desk
Nearly 40 years after a New York City first grader went missing on his way to school, a former store clerk has been convicted in his murder.
A jury returned a guilty verdict Tuesday against Pedro Hernandez in the 1979 murder of six-year-old Etan Patz.
The boy’s father, Stanley Patz, in an emotional statement after the verdict, said the Patz family has waited a long time for this day, according to the Associated Press.
“We’ve finally found some measure of justice for our wonderful little boy, Etan,” Stanley Patz said
"I am truly relieved, and I'll tell you, it's about time. It's about time."
Etan Patz vanished on his way to the bus stop on the morning of May 25 and was never seen again. His body was never found.
Hernandez, 56, was arrested in 2012 after confessing to the crime decades later, but a jury deadlocked in his 2015 trial.
His attorney maintained that while the former store clerk did confess to killing the boy and had worked in the neighborhood in the late 1970’s, Hernandez had falsely confessed to the crime due to a mental health issue.
BREAKING: A man has been convicted in one of the nation’s most haunting missing-child cases, nearly 38 years after 6-year-old Etan Patz disappeared in New York City.
A member of the jury in the second trial, which convicted him of murder and kidnapping, said the panel concluded that Hernandez did have a psychiatric disorder, but had not imagined killing the child, the Associated Press reported.
The Patz case drew national attention to crimes against children and ended an age of innocence when parents still let their children play outside alone and roam about. The boy was also one of the first missing children featured on milk cartons.
Hernandez is scheduled for sentencing on Feb. 28.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Etan became one of the first missing children ever pictured on milk cartons, and the anniversary of his disappearance has been designated National Missing Children's Day.