By Barbara Goldberg
NEW YORK, May 28 (Reuters) - New York police have requested trash hauling records going back to 1979, the year 6-year-old Etan Patz vanished from his neighborhood in a case that has captivated the city for decades, a sanitation department spokesman said on Monday.
Last week, Pedro Hernandez, 51, who now lives in New Jersey, confessed to luring Patz into a small food store where he worked near the Patz home in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood, strangling him, stuffing his body into a plastic bag and dumping it in the trash, police said.
Hernandez, who was charged with second-degree murder, remains at New York's Bellevue Hospital to undergo a psychiatric exam. He has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and is on medication, his lawyer said.
Police appear to be focused on locating the body of the boy, whose disappearance while walking to a bus stop near his family's apartment helped change the way the nation responds to missing children reports.
The Department of Sanitation was "asked by NYPD if we had trash pickup and dumping records going back to 1979, which we do," sanitation department spokesman Vito Turso said.
"They are non-computerized and are archived. NYPD said they would be back to us. We await their call and will cooperate fully with their investigation," Turso said in an email.
A New York Police Department spokesman did not immediately return calls for comment.
Patz's highly publicized disappearance prompted a 1984 law designed to help find missing children and the boy was one of the first children whose picture was posted on a milk carton.
Decades before his confession to police, Hernandez revealed the killing to a Camden, New Jersey, prayer group in the 1980s but none of the 50 or so members who heard it ever spoke with police, according to reports in The New York Times and the New York Daily News.
The prayer group leader at St. Anthony of Padua, a Roman Catholic church, Tomas Rivera, 76, said he never turned over the information to authorities because Hernandez spoke to the group rather than to him one on one, the Times said.
A telephone call by Reuters to Rivera's Blackwood, New Jersey, home went unanswered. (Editing By Doina Chiacu)