Murder of Anjelica Castillo
Three reconstructions of Castillo which were created in efforts to identify her body
April 24, 1987
Queens, New York, United States
|Died||c. July 18, 1991 (aged 4)|
Astoria, Queens, New York, United States
|Cause of death||Homicide by asphyxia|
|Body discovered||July 23, 1991 |
Manhattan, New York, United States
|Resting place||St. Raymond's Cemetery, Bronx, New York, United States|
|Other names||Baby Hope|
|Known for||Murder victim|
Anjelica Castillo, previously known as Baby Hope for 22 years, was an American four-year-old girl from New York City who was murdered in 1991. Her body was not identified until 2013. The case received national attention due to the young age of the victim and the manner of her death. After her identification, Castillo's paternal cousin, Conrado Juarez (30 years old at the time of her death) confessed to murdering the girl.
Castillo's abusive father, Genaro Ramirez, had taken two of his three young children and disappeared – her mother, Margarita Castillo, figured that he had taken Anjelica and her sister and returned to his native Mexico. In reality, he left Anjelica in New York, taking her to stay with the children's grown cousin, Balvina Juarez-Ramirez, who lived in a house in Astoria, Queens.
Years later, Balvina's brother/Anjelica's cousin, Conrado Juarez, admitted to torturing, raping and sodomizing the child before smothering her. Juarez, who was 30 years old at the time of the murder, had bound Anjelica to a table in his sister's apartment and deprived her of water on multiple occasions. Juarez claimed he originally did not intend to kill her but then suffocated her with a pillow after she cried out during her rape. Juarez immediately informed Juarez-Ramirez that their cousin was dead, and his sister insisted they dispose of the body. Anjelica's body was placed in a cooler, and the siblings took a car service to Manhattan to dump the cooler.
Anjelica's mother, believing her likely in Mexico with the father, and also unable to communicate in English, never reported her missing. Margarita did claim that she and her family had searched for her daughter but were unable to locate her, for which she became the subject of much criticism and anger when Anjelica was identified in 2013. Other reports reveal that her family also neglected to report her missing, as some of the family members, including Margarita, were apparently undocumented immigrants. They feared that if it was discovered that some were in the country without documentation during the course of an investigation, they would be deported.
Anjelica's decomposing body was discovered on July 23, 1991, inside a navy blue cooler along the Henry Hudson Parkway in Manhattan, New York. The body was so decomposed that identification was at first impossible, as her face was not recognizable—she soon came to be known as "Baby Hope". She was naked and had been bound with both rope and a Venetian blind cord. She was placed in a fetal position with her hands pressed together. The body was then wrapped in a garbage bag and placed inside the cooler, which was filled with unopened soda cans and water (which was presumably ice at one time). Examiners concluded that "Baby Hope" was possibly Hispanic, had dark, wavy hair in a ponytail, was malnourished, weighing only 28 pounds (13 kilograms), was a victim of sexual abuse, and had died on-or-about July 18. She was initially estimated to have been between three and five years old.
After examination was completed and the case remained unsolved, police provided the money in 1993 to have the victim buried after a public funeral was held. A casket was donated in which to bury the little girl, and her headstone was marked as "Baby Hope". One of the officers who was investigating the case gave a eulogy. Two hundred people attended.
After the remains were originally discovered, a witness told authorities that she had seen a Hispanic man and woman carrying a cooler in the location where the body was found, prior to the discovery, around the time the girl was estimated to have been murdered. A few months later, in the autumn of 1991, some images of a nude child were located in New Jersey, which some believed might have been "Baby Hope", as the girl in the photographs matched the victim's description.
"Baby Hope's" body was exhumed in 2006 and 2011 to obtain DNA information. Authorities reopened the case in 2013 and requested information from the public. The tip that broke the case came from an anonymous woman who told authorities that she had overheard a conversation two years prior between a mother and another person regarding the disappearance of her daughter. This information led investigators to Margarita Castillo, and DNA comparisons confirmed that she was the mother of "Baby Hope"—who could now be identified as Anjelica Castillo.
Identification and arrest of Conrado Juarez
Once investigators had identified Anjelica and her family, further effort led them to the names of her paternal cousins – 52-year-old Conrado Juarez and his already deceased sister, Balvina Juarez-Ramirez. Juarez was questioned by detectives after being located working as a dishwasher in a restaurant in Manhattan. The subsequent interrogation led to his arrest for the crime. He was initially believed to have traveled back to his native Mexico before his arrest. He was subsequently charged with felony murder. Police stated that they also suspect that Anjelica may not have been Juarez's only victim.
When first interviewed by reporters, Margarita Castillo refused to show her face but spoke through a closed door. She gave her explanation of why Anjelica was not reported missing and also described her devastation when she learned of the fate of Anjelica, and her anger toward Juarez. She was subjected to criticism throughout the community for not reporting anything about Anjelica's disappearance.
Some members and friends of Anjelica's family had never known she had even existed. Anjelica's sister, Laurencita Ramirez, spoke to reporters about the case. When she was 11 she learned about Anjelica's existence and abduction by their father years earlier. Ramirez stated that she did not become familiar with "Baby Hope" until the case was re-opened and publicized in 2013. When she saw the artist recreations in the media, she saw a resemblance between the victim and herself and wondered if the still unidentified "Baby Hope" might be the missing sister she had heard about.
When Anjelica was first identified, her father, Genaro Ramirez, was believed to be involved in her death, until Juarez confessed. To date Genaro Ramirez has never been located, but is believed to reside in Puebla, Mexico, and may still be unaware of what happened to his daughter after he gave her to Juarez.
- Paddock, Barry; Tracy, Robert; Parascandola, Rocco; Schapiro, Robert (13 October 2013). "'Baby Hope' case: Cousin confesses to sexually assaulting, killing toddler Anjelica Castillo more than two decades ago". New York Daily News. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
- "Report: 'Baby Hope's' Real Name Revealed 22 Years After Body Found". CBS. CBS New York. 10 October 2013. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
- Olsen, Mary-Louise (13 October 2013). "'Baby Hope was tortured': 4-year-old was 'tied up and denied water before her death'". Mail Online. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
- Schabner, Dean (12 October 2013). "Baby Hope Case: Cousin Arrested in 22-Year-Old Killing". ABC News. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
- "Margarita Castillo, Mother Of Baby Hope, Speaks Out After Conrado Juarez Confesses To Daughter's Murder". Huffington Post. 15 October 2013. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
- Lorena Mongelli; Reuven Fenton; Bruce Golding (14 October 2013). "My sister, Baby Hope". New York Post. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
- Fenton, Reuvan (14 October 2013). "Baby Hope's mom 'devastated'". New York Post. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
- "Mom of "Baby Hope" Reveals Why She Didn't Call Police". 16 October 2013. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
- "Case File 50UFNY". doenetwork.org. The Doe Network. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
- Dahl, Julia (15 October 2013). ""Baby Hope" Case: Why didn't anyone in Anjelica Castillo's family ever report her missing?". CBS. 48 Crimesider. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
- Daly, Michael (13 October 2013). "Baby Hope Killer Confesses After 22 Years". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
- "NYPD REOPENING 20-YEAR-OLD COLD CASE OF BABY HOPE". ABC. Eyewitness News 7. 23 July 2013. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
- Weiss, Murray (10 October 2013). "Baby Hope's Mother Identified 22 Years After Notorious Murder Of 4-Year-Old Girl In NYC". Huffington Post. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
- Sandoval, Edgar; Marcius, Chelsia Rose; Parascandola, Rocco; Moore, Tina (14 October 2013). "Baby Hope's mom speaks out after arrest in daughter's murder: 'I'm devastated'". New York Daily News. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
- "Sister of 'Baby Hope': I wish I had met her". Huffington Post. 15 October 2013. Retrieved 10 September 2014.