The quiet of a sleepy South Jersey town has been disrupted with news that a child killer might have been in their midst for a few years. There is local connection to a New York missing child case that appears solved 33 years later.
Maple Shade in Burlington County is a small slice of small town USA, it’s got a quiet central business district, a VFW and is only minutes from the major Delaware River bridges.
Amanda Vlach moved back three months ago.
“I lived here all my life and I moved to Florida and I hated it,” said Vlach. “I met my husband had my children and I said we had to move back. This is home, everybody knows everything about everybody most of the time. There’s tons of things going on such a great family community.”
But less than a football field away from where a community carnival will happen this weekend, Pedro Hernandez has been living in the rear of a duplex. Chuck Dean is a retired police officer who lives next door to the Hernandez family.
“He was very quiet very personally, he didn’t say much of anything, Never really had a conversation with him for three years, he never said a word,” said Dean. “The only time he came out of the house was to sit in that chair and have a cigarette.”
Dean was shocked to find out that Hernandez has been charged with the 1979 murder of Etan Patz. He allegedly coaxed Patz into the basement of a New York corner store with the promise of a soda, killed him and stuffed the six year old boy’s body in a trash bag and disposed of with other trash in the area.
Rob Geores lives two houses down, and was surprised when told what police say his neighbor admitted to doing.
“It’s quiet it’s peaceful, there’s always people walking back and forth to the store walking their dogs or jogging, easygoing, safe you wouldn’t expect anything like that to be happening two doors down, or whatever I guess it didn’t happen two doors down, you wouldn’t expect that to be happening, at least I wouldn’t,” said Geores.
Dean says he should have known something was wrong with Hernandez.
“I figured there was something was wrong somewhere and perhaps he was evasive, maybe he thought someone was looking for him I didn’t know if he knew I was a retired policeman or not, I’m sure that he did,” said Dean. “You would never know what was going on in that house.”
Hernandez has been charged with second degree murder, but even with a confession it could be difficult to prosecute, since it happened so many years ago and the child’s body has not been recovered.