Wednesday, October 16, 2013

For New York’s finest, hope springs eternal.

The identity of a little girl whose shocking and senseless death haunted New York for over twenty years has finally been discovered. The real name of “Baby Hope”, who was found murdered in 1991, was Angelica Ramirez. The discovery was made after police tracked down the girl’s mother thanks to the New York police officer who never gave up hope. The case was solved on the 22nd anniversary of the day her body was originally found.

Baby Hope 01

New York Police solve murder of child after 22 years.

New York police Assistant Chief Joseph Reznick visited the grave of a child known only as “Baby Hope” recently, as he's often done numerous times over the past two decades, but this time he had more answers than questions about her death. 

“Baby Hope’s” name was made public the same day a distant cousin confessed to sexually abusing the girl, then torturing, suffocating and killing her, police said. Reznick replaced the sign on her headstone at St. Raymond's Cemetery that read "the identity of this little girl is unknown" to one that spelled out her name, Anjelica Castillo.  She is indeed an angel.

The discovery was unspeakable.

For investigators, when the body of the unknown 4-year-old was discovered hiding under soda cans inside a picnic cooler and discarded along a Manhattan highway, the horror was unspeakable. Who would do this to a small child?

"Her picture, and now this confession, I'm going to have in my mind for the rest of my life," Reznick said. "Not knowing what had happened, I imagined a sort of best-case scenario. But now that I heard the real story, I know it is one of the most disturbing things."

Tiny angel murdered by a distant cousin.

Conrado Juarez, 52, was charged Saturday with murder in the girl's death, one of New York's most notorious cold cases. "This case really touched us, because she was just an innocent child, we all have kids or know them," said retired Detective Jerry Giorgio, who also investigated the case. "I know it haunted me."

“Baby Hope”, was found starved, naked and bound in a blue cooler and discovered by construction workers in 1991. She weighed just 20 pounds, less than half the weight of an average 4-year-old. The strange thing was that no one reported her missing, and detectives had no leads, until recently.

"It became just intensely frustrating," said Giorgio. "The frustration stayed with a lot of us, which makes it more relieving now."

New York Police pay for “Baby Hope’s” funeral and burial.

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New York police mourned the loss of the little girl they nicknamed "Baby Hope." Officers organized a funeral for her in 1993, and hundreds of New Yorkers attended. The police paid for her funeral and gravestone at the Bronx cemetery. They visited her grave annually.

Detectives made a publicity push this summer on the 22nd anniversary of the discovery of her body, canvassing the area, plastering posters, asking for anyone with information to come forward. This time, it worked.

A tip came in that led to Juarez, a 52-year-old cousin of the girl's father. He told police he took Anjelica into an apartment and sexually assaulted her, then suffocated her with a pillow. He folded up the tiny body, bound it, wrapped it in cloth and put it inside the cooler, then told relatives they were headed to the beach, Reznick said.

New York police remember the tiny “Angel”.

For Reznick, when the gavel comes down at the end of the trial, he said he'll feel true relief.

"I remember saying at her funeral, 'This little girl was the most innocent of the innocent,'" he said. "I think that remains."

We applaud the New York Police.

As a New Yorker, we give our police credit for persistence. It’s another testament to the kind of folks who make up the NYPD; the same people who paid for Baby Hope’s funeral and gravestone. The words they inscribed at the bottom of that stone couldn’t be more fitting: “Because We Care.”

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