A few days after it was revealed that the mother had been identified in the 22-year-old cold case murder of a little girl known as "Baby Hope," the NYPD announced that they made an arrest. Yesterday, Police Commissioner Kelly said that 52-year-old Conrado Juarex, the girl's cousin, had been arrested and charged with second degree-murder, "Early this morning, Juarez admitted that he sexually assaulted Anjelica, that he smothered her and then disposed of the body with the aid of his sister, Balvina Juarez-Ramirez, who is now deceased."
On July 23, 1991, construction workers found a blue and white cooler on Henry Hudson Parkway and Dyckman Street in Manhattan. Inside were the decomposing remains of a malnourished female child, about three to five years old. Investigators were never able to make any headway and, this past summer, the NYPD revived the call for information about the murder, which led to a tipster mentioning something.
According to Newsday, "A rare break for detectives started not with the DNA match, but as a result of the women in the Laundromat five years ago, said the source, who asked not to be identified. The two women were talking about the Baby Hope case when one of them blurted out 'that was my sister,' a remark the other woman initially discounted, the source said. This summer, when the posters reappeared, the woman remembered the conversation and confided to a friend who implored her to call police, the source said. The woman called the NYPD, sparking an intense investigation that led detectives to the woman who claimed Baby Hope was her sister."
The NYPD was able to link Baby Hope to the mother by testing DNA from an envelope. The mother had ten children, and the police were able to identify the murdered child as Anjelica Castillo. DNAinfo reports, "After finding her the NYPD back-tracked, starting with Anjelica's birth at Elmhurst Hospital in April of 1987, and developing a sprawling family tree that included relatives in New York and Mexico."
Kelly said yesterday, "The public outreach, forensic investigation and old-fashioned pavement pounding led detectives Friday to Juarez’s residence in the Bronx. A young woman - his biological adult daughter - answered the door. She told investigators that Juarez did not live there, and had been in Mexico for the last 12 years. Detectives were able to interview Juarez’s wife, who resided at that same address. She informed them that in fact, he had gone to work at 7 a.m. Friday morning - at a job in Manhattan. Investigators met him near the restaurant where he is employed and convinced him to talk with them."
The police commissioner described what Juarez told investigators: That Juarez, 30 at the time, had been living in an apartment in Astoria with many relatives, including four-year-old Anjelica. Juarez allegedly sexually assaulted her and then smothered her. Kelly said, "When she went motionless, he summoned his sister from another room."
According to Kelly, Juarez also claimed that his sister "directed him to get rid of the body, and brought him the cooler. The brother and sister then left the apartment with the cooler, hailed a black livery cab and were dropped off in Manhattan, Juarez said. Carrying the cooler between the two of them, they walked through a wooded area and put the cooler down. They then separated and Juarez returned to the Bronx, and his sister to Queens, never to speak of the heinous act again."
Jerry Giorgio, a now-retired NYPD detective who worked on the case, was at the press conference. He told the Post that when he "first saw Anjelica, she was naked, and had been folded and tied so she would fit in the dirty cooler that would be her coffin for eight days, until she was found. 'Her shin bones were across her face,' Giorgio remembered, anger rising in his voice."
Giorgio added, "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." Of Juarez, Giorgio said, "I hope he’s miserable every day of his life."