A man accused of killing his 4-year-old cousin, known for two decades only as "Baby Hope," was indicted Tuesday in one of the city's most haunting cold cases, as his lawyer continued to question a police confession that sealed the man's arrest.
Conrado Juarez, a 52-year-old kitchen worker, remained held without bail and wasn't in court as prosecutors said a grand jury decided there was enough evidence to continue charging him in the girl's death. His lawyer had decided Juarez didn't need to be at the brief proceeding.
Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Melissa Mourges didn't disclose the specific charge or charges, which is typical in Manhattan at this stage of the prosecution.
Juarez was arraigned earlier this month on a charge of murder, one of the few offenses with no statute of limitations in New York state.
The child's body was found in 1991 in a cooler alongside a Manhattan highway. Juarez would have been about 30 at the time. Afterward, detectives nicknamed the then-unidentified child "Baby Hope," helped arrange her burial and paid for her headstone.
Police marked the 22nd anniversary of the discovery of her body by putting up fliers and announcing a $12,000 reward for information. A tip then finally led investigators to her name — Anjelica Castillo — and to Juarez's arrest this month.
Police and prosecutors say Juarez confessed to sexually abusing and suffocating Anjelica. At the time, the girl was living with his sister. The sister has since died.
Juarez later told newspapers that the girl died accidentally and that he only helped his sister dispose of her body. He said detectives pressured him into saying he killed her.
His lawyer, Michael Croce, has underscored that Juarez's statements to authorities came after about 12 hours of interrogation and that prosecutors have yet to disclose whether any DNA or other physical evidence ties him to the girl's death.
"I don't trust any statements that were made, by any individual, after being in custody for such an extended period of time," Croce said after court Tuesday.
Juarez is due back in court Nov. 21.