NEW YORK — It was a cold case that had eluded investigators for more than two decades. A little girl with no name had been stuffed into a cooler and left beside a Manhattan highway. On Saturday, however, the mystery seemed to have been lifted with the arrest of a cousin of the girl, known as Baby Hope, police said.
And the girl's name had finally been restored: Anjelica Castillo, who was born in 1987 and was 4 years old when she died in 1991.
The cousin, Conrado Juarez, 52, who lives in the Bronx, was apprehended Friday, said police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. On Saturday morning, Kelly added, Juarez confessed to sexually abusing and murdering the girl, and with the help of one of his sisters, stuffing the body in a blue-and-white picnic cooler and leaving it near the Henry Hudson Parkway in 1991.
It was there, on July 23 of that year, that a group of construction workers discovered the remains. Detectives named her Baby Hope as a symbol of their refusal to give up until they found her killer and gave her back her real name.
The detectives, forensic analysts and cold case investigators who had dedicated more than two decades to the case met news of the arrest with a mixture of relief and solemn satisfaction.
Kelly attributed the success to "public outreach, forensic investigation and old fashioned pavement pounding."
Many often visited the Bronx grave where detectives from the 34th Precinct buried the girl. There on a headstone engraved with Baby Hope, there was also a plea for help: "The identity of this little girl is still unknown," the words on the stone read. "If you have any information, please call 1-800-577-TIPS."
The tip that reignited the investigation came over the summer, around the time of the 22nd anniversary of her death. It led to Juarez, Kelly said. He said the sister involved in the death, Balvena Juarez Ramirez, is dead.