Alleged Etan Patz Killer Totally Has Head Doctors Scratching Their Own Heads

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pedro hernandezThe family of Etan Patz may be put somewhat at ease now that Pedro Hernandez has been charged with the death of their 6-year-old son. But as psychiatrists delve further into the accused killer’s mental health, motives and his behavior are not exactly lining up.

Either Hernandez is one of the more unique attackers of children in our nation’s criminal history or he isn’t capable of committing this crime — that’s the back and forth that doctors are currently having as they ponder why a family man with no criminal record would kill this child. The New York Times reports that although Hernandez has a history of schizophrenia and a bipolar disorder, which have been treated since Etan’s death, his ability to murder a child and then exhibit no other violent behavior is rare — startlingly rare.

Dr. Angela Hegarty, a forensic psychiatrist, told the Times that the entire case is still “strange,” with the so-called facts “simply not clear, whatever your theory is.” And she’s not alone. Other doctors can only posit various scenarios to explain Hernandez’s change in behavior:

“You could make the case that he committed this one act, then went back home and got treatment,” said Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center in Arlington, Va., which advocates for stronger laws to treat people with severe mental disorders.

“If he got started on medication, that could have controlled his symptoms,” Dr. Torrey said. “And we know, too, that people with schizophrenia do better in structured situations — and if his family provided it, that could have helped, too.”

What casts an even wider shadow of doubt over the charges is that Hernandez appears to have no sexual incentive for attacking Etan — a rarity according to Dr. Michael H. Stone, a New York psychiatrist. But his assessment of Hernandez was really boiled down into layman’s term with the following observation:

“Someone who at age 18 kills a child in a psychotic rage is generally going to be already pretty crazy by age 16 or 17 and often not a lot better by age 42,” Dr. Stone said.

Which means that if Hernandez is guilty of this crime, his remarkably unique circumstances could explain why it took authorities 33 years to track him down.