On Saturday, an arrest was finally made in the murder of the little girl dubbed “Baby Hope” over 20 years ago. One of the victim’s cousins, Conrado Juarez, now 52, confessed to sexually abusing and murdering the four-year-old in 1991. He says that with the help of a sister, he buried the child in a picnic cooler near the Henry Hudson Parkway, which is where construction workers found the remains on 23 July 1991. At the time, police detectives called the victim “Baby Hope” until they found the killer and were able to restore her name.
“Baby Hope” was discovered to be Anjelica Castillo, who was born in Queens in 1987 at Elmhurst Hospital Center.
Juarez was arrested at the Greenwich Village restaurant where he worked, according to Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly. Juarez has been charged with murder, and pleaded not guilty on Saturday evening.
Now deceased, Balvina Juarez-Ramirez, the sister Juarez says directed him to bury the body, is believed to have been involved in abusing other children with Juarez as well as separate from him.
Those involved in the investigation, according to the New York Times, met the news with a sort of contentment. “Over the years the optimism was always there, except the frustration would grow,” says Deputy Chief Joseph J. Reznick, detective commander of the 34th Precinct in Washington Heights at the time of the murder. “But, you know what, reflecting back on what we named this little girl, Baby Hope, I think that’s the most accurate name we could have come up with. And it worked.”
Former lead detective on the case, Jerry Giorgio, claims Castillo was being starved in her own home before her murder, “She was better off dead, I’m sorry to say, because they were starving her. She was skeletal. In six more months she would have died. I mean, she was 28 pounds and 4 years old. That poor thing.”
On the yearly anniversary of Castillo’s death, police officers canvassed the city, posting fliers, visiting and re-interviewing old neighbors and relatives, never giving up hope on the cold case. And it was a summer tip that heated up the investigation and led the authorities to Juarez through an old conversation with a woman who turned out to be Castillo’s sister.
[Image via YouTube.]