Juarez (John Minchillo / AP)
New York — The announcement of an arrest in one of New York City’s most notorious cold cases was especially relieving for two hardened investigators, who for 22 years had been working to identify the girl they nicknamed Baby Hope after discovering her body stuffed in a picnic cooler along a highway.
Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Melissa Mourges, the original prosecutor in the 1991 case and now chief of the cold case unit, told a Manhattan judge that Conrado Juarez, 52, was charged with felony murder late Saturday.
Juarez, a relative of the victim, 4-year-old Anjelica Castillo, pleaded not guilty but said nothing else after he was remanded to custody.
“Over the years, the optimism was always there except the frustration would grow,” said Detective Joseph Reznick, now a New York Police Department assistant chief who, in 1993, read the eulogy at the girl’s burial. “I think reflecting back on what we named this little girl, Baby Hope, I think it’s the most accurate name we could have come up with.”
“You know the expression I’m on cloud 9? Well, that’s where I am right now,” said former detective Jerry Giorgio, who had the case from 1991 until this summer, when he retired from the Manhattan district attorney’s cold case squad.
For more than two decades, the girl’s name, age and circumstances of death were unknown. Then, on Saturday, police Commissioner Raymond Kelly announced the arrest of Juarez, a dishwasher, who Kelly said confessed to the killing, claiming he killed the girl at his now-deceased sister’s apartment after sexually abusing her.