Police in NYC make arrest in death of ‘Baby Hope’
Published: October 12, 2013 10:20PM
Updated: October 12, 2013 06:28PM
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FILE - This undated image of a poster provided by the New York City Police Department seeks help identifying the victim dubbed "Baby Hope." In a dramatic break in a cold case more than two decades old, investigators used DNA to identify the mother of a dead child known only as Baby Hope, police said Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly declined to discuss the case further as investigators try to determine the circumstances of the 3- to 5-year-old girl's death. The case dates to July 23, 1991, when a road worker smelled something rotting and discovered the girl's remains inside a picnic cooler along the Henry Hudson Parkway. Her body was unclothed and malnourished and showed signs of possible sex abuse. Detectives theorized at the time that she had been suffocated before being dumped like garbage on a grassy incline. They estimated she was dead six to eight days before the cooler was found. (AP Photo/NYPD)

New York • Police announced Saturday that, after an investigation that lasted more than two decades, they had arrested the killer of a child who was nicknamed Baby Hope by detectives after her body was discovered inside a picnic cooler beside a Manhattan highway in 1991.

During an interrogation early Saturday, the 4-year-old girl’s cousin, Conrado Juarez, had admitted sexually assaulting and smothering her, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

The child’s name and the circumstances of her death had been a mystery for two decades. But earlier this week, police announced that a new tip and a DNA test had allowed them to finally identify the baby’s mother, a dramatic turnaround in one of the city’s more notorious cold cases.

Now they are also revealing the slain girl’s name: Anjelica Castillo.

It wasn’t clear whether Juarez, 52, had a lawyer. Police said he lived in the Bronx, but that the family had been living in Queens at the time of the killing. They also said Juarez claimed that a relative helped him dispose of the child’s body.

Anjelica’s naked, malnourished corpse was discovered on July 23, 1991, beside the Henry Hudson Parkway. Detectives thought she might have been suffocated but had few other clues as to what happened.

The case became an obsession for some investigators. Hundreds of people attended a funeral for the unknown girl in 1993. Her body was exhumed for DNA testing in 2007, and then again in 2011.

In July, detectives tried another round of publicity on the 22nd anniversary of the discovery. They canvassed the neighborhood where her body was found, hung fliers, circulated sketches of the girl and a photograph of the cooler and announced a $12,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Former detective Jerry Giorgio, who had the case from 1991 until his retirement over the summer, said he remained confident the case could be solved.

“You know that expression ‘I’m on cloud nine’?” Giorgia said Saturday. “Well I’m on cloud nine.”