More than 22 years after Anjelica Castillo, aka “Baby Hope” was found murdered in the woods of upper Manhattan police have made an arrest in the case.
A relative of Castillo, believed to be a cousin, has reportedly confessed to the killing, according to officials in New York.
In a press conference on Saturday, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said a man named Conrado Juarez, 53, has been arrested and will be charged with Castillo’s murder. The New York Post reports that Juarez was 30 at the time of Castillo’s death in 1991.
"A tip produced a lot of investigative work, and with great detective work we were able to track people down and interview them," Kelly said. "We finally came up with Anjelica’s sister, and that broke the case through.”
In an emotional moment, Kelly noted that while Castillo was known only as "Baby Hope" for the past 22 years, detectives on the case had paid for a headstone for the young girl inscribing it with the words, "Because we care."
During his press conference, Kelly said that Juarez allegedly kidnapped Castillo and sexually assaulted and smothered her with the help of his wife, Balvina Juarez. When he realized that Castillo was dead, Juarez allegedly summoned his sister, now deceased, for help. Castillo was living with Juarez and other relatives at the time while her parents were going through a separation, Kelly said.
Kelly says Juarez and his sister then took a livery cab to Manhattan where they disposed of the body. "Juarez returned to The Bronx and his sister returned to Queens, never to speak of this heinous act again, that is until our investigation caught up with them,” Kelly said at the press conference.
NBC News reports that the arrest came after police stepped up their investigation into the case this summer. The New York Daily News reports that the arrested individual is expected to be charged in connection with the case.
The renewed investigation efforts led to Castillo being identified in early October, the first time her actual identity has been discovered since her body was first found inside a cooler in the woods in 1991. On Friday, a tip led police to identifying Castillo’s father. Police told CNN they do not currently have enough evidence to arrest the man but are attempting to contact him about the case. We're very interested in him,” an anonymous official told CNN.
Police have also recently identified Castillo’s sister and mother. Castillo is believed to have been between 3 and five years old at the time of her death. NBC 4 New York reported that Castillo’s mother told authorities she lived in fear of the baby’s father, which is why she did not report her child as missing back in 1991.
"They made it their mission to identify this young child, to lay her to rest and to bring her killer to justice," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a statement released on Saturday.