(NEW YORK) — Detectives armed with a search warrant raided the suburban N.J. home of Etan Patz’s suspected murderer and seized a computer hard drive and other evidence.
ABC News witnessed the search, which is part of a relentless scouring for evidence to corroborate the murder confession of Pedro Hernandez in the disappearance of Patz, a 6-year-old New York City boy who vanished on his way to catch a school bus in 1979.
The hard drive and other evidence, including items removed in briefcases and plastic bags, were loaded into a New York Police Department Crime Scene Unit van, and the van departed for New York.
Several investigators stayed on the scene.
In a quest for evidence to bolster Hernandez’s confession, at least a dozen detectives and investigators from New York City and New Jersey, two marked Maple Shade police cars, three New York unmarked vehicles, and a crime scene van arrived at the home Wednesday afternoon around 4 p.m.
Two uniformed local officers entered the apartment with guns drawn after two women with keys opened the door for them, including Hernandez’s wife, Rosemary Hernandez. They swept the apartment and then a New York team approached the door, explained the warrant to the two women and began the search.
A photographer entered the house along with the investigators.
The NYPD Computer Crime Scene squad joined in the search, which included a hunt for any hard drives, discs or other storage devices that could hold evidence.
“It is part of the continuing investigation,” said NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne said of the overall search.
Browne would not comment further on the investigation, nor the scope of the warrant.
Asked multiple times by ABC News what the reason was for the search, officers at scene declined any comment.
Calls for comment to Hernandez’s lawyer, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the Maple Shade Police were not immediately returned.
Coming about two weeks after the arrest of Hernandez, the search was indicative of the full-court press for evidence to bolster a problematic case that hinges to a large degree on Hernandez’s confession and limited corroboration.
The Manhattan district attorney feels that there is already some corroboration of Hernandez’s confession to NYPD Missing Persons detectives, including prior admissions to the murder by Hernandez to family members and others, according to sources involved in the investigation.
One of the difficulties prosecutors face in the 33-year-old case is a lack of physical evidence linking Hernandez to the disappearance of Patz, whose body has never been found. In his confession, Hernandez claimed to have strangled the boy and placed him in a box and left him on the street near the bodega where he worked in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood.
Hernandez told investigators he had lured the boy with a soda as Patz was on the way to his school bus stop. It was the first time Patz had made the less-than-two-block walk from his parents’ loft to the bus stop alone.
A court appearance for Hernandez is slated for June 22 in New York City pending the results of a psychiatric evaluation. At that time, the district attorney can move to place the case before a grand jury or buy additional time before proceeding.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
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