As he watched reports on a 33-year-old missing-child case, a man who’d never been a suspect started pondering whether he was the killer, he later told a psychologist.
“‘Did I (do) it?’ It was just a thought that came into my head,” Pedro Hernandez recalls in the psychologist’s report, part of a recent court filing that adds new details about his defense in a case that galvanized the missing-children’s movement. “I was, like, nervous and questioning myself … trying to make sense.”
Hernandez would soon tell police he did choke 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979. But defense psychological experts later found him unsure of whether the brutal scenario he’d described was real or imaginary.
“I believed it in my mind that I did it, but I don’t think I did it,” Hernandez, 53, told one psychologist.
The interplay between belief and reality is shaping up to be a central issue in his murder trial, set for early next year. His defense says it was fiction from a man with an IQ in the bottom 2 percent while prosecutors are seeking to limit proposed expert testimony on the psychological phenomenon of false confessions.
Hernandez was diagnosed with a personality disorder with characteristics of social isolation and odd beliefs.
He told police he’s seen visions of his late mother, heard voices commanding him intermittently since his teens, seen furniture move on its own, that a voice told him to approach Etan and that several mysterious people followed along during the attack.