Pedro Hernandez, the bodega clerk convicted for the 1979 murder of New York first-grader Etan Patz was sentenced on Tuesday to 25 years to life in prison, CNN reports.
Hernandez, 56, was convicted of kidnapping and murder in February, nearly 40 years after the six-year-old disappeared on May 25, 1979.
Etan left home to walk to a school bus stop and was not seen again. In the early 1980s, his photo appeared on milk cartons across the country, the first time the method was used to try to locate missing children.
Hernandez was previously tried for the same charges in 2015, but was spared a conviction when a lone holdout on the jury led the judge to declare a mistrial.
“We, as New Yorkers and as a community of families all over the United States, were also changed forever. Through this painful and utterly horrific real-life story, we came to realize how easily our children could disappear, ripped away from us right in our own neighborhoods,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a statement quoted by CNN.
Hernandez did not become a suspect in the murder until 2012. He confessed to police after authorities questioned him on a tip they received about the murder.
Prosecutors say Hernandez choked Patz to death in a store basement, then put his body in a plastic garbage bag that he concealed inside a cardboard box.
Hernandez, then a teenager, eventually left the box with other trash in an alley more than a block from the store.
His lawyers said he made up his account of the crime because of severe mental illness. Hernandez has been diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder.
Defense attorney Harvey Fishbein has long maintained his client has an “IQ in the borderline-to-mild mental retardation range” that made him susceptible to a false confession, according to CNN.