The mother of the child known as "Baby Hope" spoke with reporters Monday as the man accused of sexually assaulting and smothering the girl more than 20 years ago sits in jail. NY1's Arlene Borenstein filed the following report.
Through the closed door of her first-floor apartment, Margarita Castillo identified herself as the mother of Anjelica Castillo, the 4-year-old girl previously known only as "Baby Hope" whose body was discovered dumped in a cooler off the Henry Hudson Parkway 22 years ago.
She had little else to say.
"Right now, no, I don't have the strength to talk about it," she said in Spanish. "I would ask you to understand this."
The case of the little girl re-emerged after a tip that led police to Anjelica's second cousin, Conrado Juarez. They say he admitted to killing the girl. Detectives say she was also sexually assaulted.
Juarez remains in custody after pleading not guilty at his arraignment this weekend.
Anjelica's mother said she's relieved there's been an arrest.
"At least there is a culprit, and that is what we were waiting for, for justice," she said in Spanish.
Many of Castillo's neighbors knew the case well. One of them has lived in the apartment next door her entire life.
"I've known her and seen her and her daughters and stuff like that, and they're really nice people," said one neighbor. "So hearing all this stuff, it's just like, I don't really believe that it could be possible, like, her doing anything on purpose, because she's such a nice woman."
Another neighbor who doesn't know Castillo remembers that she never reported her daughter missing.
"I believe if she was a better mother, she could tell everybody what happened years back," the neighbor said. "That's the only thing I could think of. How come she never said anything about this?"
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly wants to ask the family why none of them ever contacted the police.
"Difficult to say," Kelly said. "Of course, we're talking to them as well, so we hope to get more information in that regard."
While we wait to hear the outcome of that part of the investigation, the grave site of "Baby Hope" now finally bears her given name.
Kelly said that due to the nature of the case, they are looking into whether Juarez could be linked to other crimes as serious as this one.