After being hunted by police for 22 years, a man accused in the slaying of a toddler known as “Baby Hope” died in a New York jail, according to reports.
Conrado Juarez, who faced trial in Manhattan Supreme Court for the murder of 4-year-old Anjelica Castillo, died at the Rockland County Jail, the New York Daily News reported on Nov. 19.
His death is being investigated by officials, New York State Commission of Correction spokeswoman Janine Kava told the Daily News. Juarez died at Montefiore Nyack Hospital from pancreatic cancer, the New York Times reported.
The New York Post in 2013 reported that Juarez, a Mexican national, was in the United States illegally. Meanwhile, the New York Times previously reported that at one point, he smuggled himself back into the United States from Mexico.
#BREAKING: Conrado Juarez, the man who confessed he molested & suffocated “Baby Hope”—22 years after the 4 year old’s body was found in a cooler—has died in a Rockland County jail. He was 58. The little girl’s name—Anjelica Castillo—was revealed in 2013. pic.twitter.com/OvKqLwvlN7
— Mary Murphy (@MurphyPIX) November 20, 2018
Juarez admitted to police that he smothered the girl nearly 30 years ago, the Daily News noted. In 2013, he made the confession, saying he disposed of the body with his sister’s help. When the girl was discovered in July 1991, there were signs of abuse.
Detectives called her “Baby Hope” because they wanted to know her identity and find her killer. On her headstone at Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx, which NYPD investigators paid for, it reads, “Because we care.”
“It’s very painful. I have no joy right now,” Laurencita Ramirez, the girl’s sister, told the New York Post many years later. She is now an adult. “I think about [Anjelica Castillo] all the time, and I wish I would have gotten the chance to meet her. She’s the sister I never met.”
The New York Times reported that Juarez had been held at Rikers Island until 2015, when he was transferred to Rockland County jail for his own safety. Rockland County jail officials could not immediately be reached for comment, according to The Associated Press.
Juarez was due in court in Manhattan in January. He faced a felony charge of second-degree murder, which he had pleaded not guilty to.
Anjelica’s identity was unknown for more than two decades, and her parents never reported her missing. In 2013, though, a tipster led police to the girl’s sister, and DNA helped authorities identify Anjelica’s mother.
Raymond Kelly, New York City’s police commissioner at the time, said in October 2013 that Juarez was questioned and admitted abusing and killing Anjelica. Juarez and told police his sister helped him dump the girl’s body.
“I had looked forward to taking him to trial and gaining justice through the courts,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner Joseph Resnick told PIX11 on Nov. 19. “The confession was obtained legally,” Resnick added. “He did it.”
In 2013, Juarez claimed that he was coerced into confessing and recanted his statement, the New York Times reported. “I told the police that I put a pillow over her face and killed her,” he said. “But it wasn’t like that.” He that at one point in 1995 he returned back to Mexico after his sister died and later smuggled himself back into the United States, paying a smuggler $800, according to the New York Times.
There were questions as to why the girl was never reported missing by her family. CBS News reported it’s because her family, who were likely illegal aliens were reluctant to report the crime for fear they would be deported
The Associated Press contributed to this report.