Press scrambles to cover new Etan Patz developments

The missing poster for Etan Patz. ()
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The news that a New Jersey man has claimed to have murdered Etan Patz on May 25, 1979, a date that became known as National Missing Children’s Day in his memory, came too late for today's newspapers.

The question is whether the story will remain big enough for tomorrow's.

This morning and into the afternoon, the Patz news was leading the homepages of all the city's major outlets, including The New York Times, The New York Post, the Daily News, Newsday, DNAinfo and the local affiliates for NBC, CBS, FOX and ABC, which broke into "The View" to carry Mayor Bloomberg's remarks during a press conference this morning about the latest developments.

Nor is it a local story, exactly, appearing as it does this afternoon on the homepages of The Times of London and the Guardian (UK edition) as well as every major national news outlet and local news website elsewhere in the U.S.

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Where we are at now: The News homepage has a question-headline: "Etan Patz mystery: Is man's horrifying killer confession true or latest dead end?" Here's more:

[Pedro Hernandez claims] he lured the boy into his clutches with candy — then stabbed and strangled him to death, police sources said Thursday.

[He] claims he then stuffed the 6-year-old boy’s body in a bag, then placed that in a box and took it to a hiding place, the sources said. Hernandez, 67, said when he returned two days later to collect the box — it was gone, the sources said.

Opinion, according to the News, is divided on whether to believe Hernandez. For one thing, it is 33 years, almost to the day, since Patz's disappearance, and some investigators are used to hoax claims this time of year.

The News is reporting that a relative of Hernandez went to cops, though, so if it is a hoax it's not Hernandez's idea of one, presumably.

The Post has more details here:

After Patz vanished, Hernandez moved to New Jersey and confessed to family members that he had killed a child -- but didn’t mention any names, according to law enforcement sources.

The man told a spiritual adviser in the 1980s about killing a child, but again, didn’t mention Patz, sources said. It wasn’t until authorities tore through the basement of a building near Patz’s family's home on in April looking for remains, that a relative of Hernandez’s called cops.

The Times, more cautious, has the same story, sourced to unnamed officials and a little less detailed. And this: "It is unclear whether investigators have been able to corroborate the account Mr. Hernandez has provided."

Long a subject of fascination for the New York press corps, the unsolved Patz case got a second life when it was officially reopened on May 25, 2010. It gained steam last month when investigators tore up a basement in search of clues near the building where Patz had lived, giving the story renewed front-page appeal.

Today's drama is unfolding in Camden, N.J. (scene of several interviews with neighbors by the Post)where Hernandez, a former bodega employee, was picked up; but also in Soho, where an army of news trucks and reporters has gathered to interview the locals.

The tabloids alone had about a dozen reporters on the story as of the time of this writing, judging from a quick scan of bylines and reporting credits. "Full-court press" is how one person described the atmosphere over at the News.