An official from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children testified at the Etan Patz murder trial Thursday that a 2004 tip about defendant Pedro Hernandez was sent to New York State and city authorities eight years before action was taken.
Robert Hoever said center records corroborated testimony from a Hernandez relative who called its hotline in July 2004, but said he had no idea what the NYPD and the New York State Missing Persons Clearinghouse did with the "lead report" the center sent them.
"What they do with it is not our role," Hoever testified as the Patz trial resumed in Manhattan Supreme Court after a weeklong break. "We are not an investigative agency."
Hernandez, 53, a married father from Maple Shade, New Jersey, was charged in 2012 with murder in the notorious 1979 disappearance of 6-year-old Etan on his way to catch a school bus in SoHo. Hernandez was a teen working at a SoHo bodega at the time.
Hernandez confessed, but now contends he imagined the crime due to a mental disorder.
Police questioned him in 2012 after a tip from his brother-in-law Jose Lopez, who testified he fruitlessly tried to alert authorities for years without giving his name -- including the 2004 call to the center.
An NYPD spokesman did not respond to a call for comment on what happened to the notification from the national center. A spokeswoman for the New York State clearinghouse said the role of the $400,000-a-year agency was to alert local police, but declined to provide any specifics on what happened to the Etan Patz tip.
"The clearinghouse is not a law enforcement agency and does not investigate tips/leads; that responsibility falls to the agency handling the case," Janine Kava said.
In other testimony Thursday, Hernandez's nephew Sam Santana testified about memories he had of his uncle staying on his parents' living room couch in SoHo in the late 1970s while working at the bodega, and later for a year in the mid-1980s.
Santana, who was born in 1976, described Hernandez as a "quiet" man and a "sharp" dresser who kept to himself. Santana, whose father testified earlier, gave no indication that Hernandez ever bothered him or his two brothers.
In other developments Thursday, prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon revealed that on Wednesday night police had belatedly discovered three additional boxfuls of evidence in the 35-year-old case that were not turned over to the defense. They were stored in uptown Manhattan at an NYPD housing bureau headquarters.
She said the materials in the boxes -- ranging from lists of every arrest in the city at the time of Patz's disappearance and index cards on psychics who were interviewed to police reports on witness interviews and on another suspect -- were irrelevant, but were given to the defense.