Authorities say Hernandez, 51, is the prime suspect in the notorious disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz in New York in 1979 after confessing to suffocating the child.
He moved to New Jersey shortly after Etan vanished on May 25, 1979. The family has lived in Maple Shade for at least three years, neighbors said.
"They're saying he confessed. If he confessed, he's been living in his private hell for the last 33 years," said Dan Wollick, 71, who lives in the duplex's front apartment.
"If it's true, his life is over," said Wollick, a retired Waste Management truck driver.
East Linwood Avenue, a quiet, tree-lined section of a township whose slogan is "Nice Town, Friendly People," came under the unaccustomed glare of national media attention Thursday.
Neighbors found themselves speaking into arrays of TV cameras and microphones and into reporters' notebooks.
There was New York's Newsday, CNN, Reuters, and someone from Inside Edition.
Reporters, some peering through decorative glass in the front door, tried to coax Hernandez's wife, Rosemary - in English and Spanish - out to say something, anything. She could be seen swaying as she sat on a couch.
The only sound from inside was of a dog barking.
Hernandez was being questioned Thursday at the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, the Associated Press reported. He worked at a SoHo bodega around the time of Etan's disappearance. His Maple Shade neighbors didn't know what he did for a living.
Authorities are trying to confirm his story, and no charges have been filed yet.
"Ordinary people, quiet, good neighbors," said Maryanne Hammel, who has lived across the street since 2001.
The Camden County Prosecutor's Office, trying to stem a flood of media calls, said its role was limited to helping investigators from New York do their work, such as lending them their facilities to conduct interviews.
Jeannie Cool, 50, a next-door neighbor, said she saw Maple Shade police and other officers at the house early Wednesday but didn't know what to think of it.
She recalled that when her son recently invited Hernandez's daughter to a barbecue, she declined to come, saying she had Bible study.
"I had the chills when I heard," she said Thursday. "Maybe if it's the truth, they'll have a little closure," she said of the Patz family.
Rosemary Hernandez didn't answer the door until a Maple Shade officer arrived, apparently summoned by her.
"Call her back. . . . Let her know I'm here," the officer said into the radio on his shoulder as he waited.
The dog kept barking.
"I understand you have a job to do, I respect that. What I'm asking is that none of you impede their progress to their vehicle," the officer said, addressing the media.
Members of the media scurried down the steps to make way for the two women.
Hernandez's daughter - neighbors said her name is Becky - emerged first. She carried what looked like a box of food, including cereal.
Her mother followed, with stuff in a white trash bag.
The women walked to their car, heads bowed and ignoring questions from reporters.
"Ma'am, do you have any comment, any kind words about Mr. Hernandez?"
"How're you holding up?"
"When did you find out, ma'am?"
"Is he guilty? Is he innocent?"
Rosemary Hernandez blew the horn of the sky-blue Chevrolet to get people to move out of her way as she backed out of the driveway.
If her husband's alleged confession is verified, it would solve one of the nation's most baffling missing-children cases. Etan's disappearance on his way to school set off campaigns to put pictures of missing children on milk cartons in efforts to locate them.
Cool's daughter, Ashley Kabbeko, said she felt "a little freaked out" to know that Hernandez might be a killer.
As she addressed the cameras, she kept a grip on her 4-year-old daughter, Alannah. The girl clutched a deflated teal balloon in her mouth and a red-haired doll in one hand.
Contact Darran Simon at 856-779-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @darransimon.