The ‘Baby Hope’ 1991 cold case, in which a four-year-old girl’s body was found in a cooler in New York City's Washington Heights, announcing that a family relative has been arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting and then smothering her to death.

Conrado Juarez, now 52, was arrested and has pleaded not guilty to felony murder, though, according to Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Melissa Mourges, Juarez confessed to the crime. Mourges testified that Juarez admitted to committing the sexual assault, smothering the young girl and then getting his sister to help him get rid of the body.

At the time of the discovery of ‘Baby Hope,’ the child remained unidentified. Her parents, who were separated at the time of her death, did not report her missing, and it is unclear how or why her other family members remained quiet for so long. One report suggests that her family members, including one younger sister that was living with her at the time, were intimidated and living in the U.S. illegally. In 1993, detectives working the case organized a funeral for ‘Baby Hope,’ which hundreds attended, and even paid for her headstone that reads “Because We Care.”

This past summer, the NYPD launched a new campaign for information regarding ‘Baby Hope,’ spreading fliers and sketches of the unidentified girl around the city; they even offered a $12,000 reward for information. The campaign worked, and the police received a tip from a woman saying she believed she might know the victim’s sister. The sister reportedly told the police that she believed her sister had been murdered, and she eventually led the police to identify ‘Baby Hope’ as Anjelica Castillo.

Once investigators began questioning family members, eventually leading them to Juarez. According to Assistant DA Mourges, Juarez admitted to sexually assaulting the little girl and that, “during the act, he put a pillow over her face, suffocating her." His accomplice in the cover-up, his sister Balvina Juarez-Ramirez, who was reportedly taking care of Anjelica at the time, is believed to have died in 1995.

NYPD is celebrating after 22 years of working on the case, and the efforts of every detective involved is being praised for their perseverance.

“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.

Olivia Truffaut-Wong

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