It was the coldest of cases. Twenty-two years ago, the body of a young girl was discovered inside a cooler stowed in an embankment along Manhattan's Henry Hudson Parkway. New York City Police didn't know her name or age. No missing person report was ever filed. Detectives called her Baby Hope.
After an investigation lasting more than two decades, police announced Saturday that they had a confession in Baby Hope's killing and had made an arrest: her cousin, 52-year-old Conrado Juarez.
Police also made public her name: Anjelica Castillo, 4.
Juarez was arraigned Saturday night and charged with second-degree murder for Anjelica's death, according to the criminal complaint.
"Public outreach, forensic investigation and old-fashioned pavement pounding led detectives to Juarez," said New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, praising the work of investigators who had labored almost obsessively to close the case.
The investigation thawed this summer when an anonymous tipster led police to Anjelica's sister, Kelly said. Police identified a woman believed to be Anjelica's mother and a DNA match was confirmed using samples taken in 2011, when the body was last exhumed.
But Anjelica wasn't living with her mother at the time of her death – she was living in a Queens apartment with family on her father's side.
Juarez told police he came to his sister's apartment and spotted Anjelica in the hallway, Kelly said. After sexually assaulting her, Juarez told police he smothered her. Seeing her motionless, Juarez called his sister into the room, and the pair hatched a plan to dump her body, investigators said.
He told police that Juarez's sister offered the cooler – the same cooler in which Anjelica's body was discovered – and they traveled by cab to the wooded area in Manhattan where her body was later discovered. Juarez's sister is now deceased, Kelly said.
Closing the chapter on a lengthy investigation, New York Assistant Police Chief Joseph Reznick – who regularly visited Anjelica's cemetery plot-- said he was relieved.
"When we visit the plot now out at St. Raymond's, we can attach a name to this little girl," Reznick said.