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)
Camden, N.J. – A sister of the New Jersey man charged with killing six-year-old Etan Patz in 1979 said she went to local police in the early 1980s after hearing that her brother had "confessed to killing a kid" to a prayer group.
Speaking at her home Monday, Norma Hernandez, 53, said family members had told her Pedro Hernandez made the confession at a prayer group led by Tomas Rivera at St. Anthony of Padua, a Roman Catholic Church in Camden. She said family members were present during the prayer meeting.
Norma Hernandez said she told Camden police about the disclosure in the early 1980s.
She told The Wall Street Journal that she believed her brother's alleged admission.
I just feel angry that people who heard the confession didn't do anything.
- Norma Hernandez, sister alleged killer Pedro Hernandez
It wasn't clear Monday what the Camden police did with Norma Hernandez's contention then. She didn't say whether she filed a police report. "I just feel angry that people who heard the confession didn't do anything," she said.
Camden police officials referred questions to the police chief, who was out of the office Monday. A spokesman for the Camden County Prosecutor's Office said the office would discuss Norma Hernandez's claim on Tuesday to see if there was a record of it. Hernandez said she has spoken with New York Police Department investigators recently about her report to Camden police and other matters regarding her brother.
Pedro Hernandez, 51, who most recently lived in nearby Maple Shade, N.J., was charged Friday with second-degree murder in connection with Etan's death. He is undergoing a psychiatric evaluation in Bellevue Hospital Center. His attorney, Harvey Fishbein, has said Hernandez has a long history of mental illness, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Fishbein didn't return requests for comment on Monday.
NYPD officials couldn't be reached Monday evening about Norma Hernandez's claim. Investigators have interviewed several of Pedro Hernandez's family members and those in a Roman Catholic prayer group in Camden, N.J., who say he made statements over the years that he killed a child in New York.
According to police, Pedro Hernandez has told detectives that he lured the boy into the store's basement with a soda, killed him and left him in a trash bag. A police report from 1979 listed Pedro Hernandez as being a bodega worker in Etan's neighborhood at the time.
Read more stories from The Wall Street Journal.