A man in custody in Manhattan has confessed to strangling Etan Patz, the 6-year-old boy who vanished in SoHo on his way to school in 1979, wrapping his body in a bag and putting it in a box, a law enforcement official said on Thursday.
The confession comes a month after investigators spent five days excavating a SoHo basement near where Etan disappeared in what turned out to be a fruitless search for his remains.
The news of the confession is the latest chapter in a wrenching story that has tormented the city since Etan’s disappearance 33 years ago in a far grittier neighborhood than today’s SoHo, with its tourist-clogged streets filled with upscale boutiques and trendy restaurants.
The man, Pedro Hernandez, told investigators that he had left the box at a location in Manhattan, but when he returned several days later the box was no longer there, the official said. Investigators recently took Mr. Hernandez to that location. A second official also said Mr. Hernandez told the authorities he had strangled the boy and discarded his body.
Mr. Hernandez’s admission propelled the Patz case back into the public spotlight in dramatic manner for the second time in weeks. In comments to reporters on Thursday that reflected the hold the subject has had on the city’s psyche and his concern for the boy’s family, Mayor Michael R. his hope that the case was closer to resolution.
“As a father, I just cannot imagine what they have gone through,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “And I certainly hope we are one step closer to bringing them some measure of relief.”