NEW YORK (PIX11) – Six days after confessing to sexually assaulting and killing Anjelica “Baby Hope” Castillo, suspect Conrado Juarez has recanted his confession. It’s left seasoned investigators saying they’ve seen this sort of thing before. However, they were also critical of the way the recantation came about.
Juarez made both a video and a written confession to sexually assaulting and killing Anjelica Castillo. She was known as Baby Hope for 22 years because, for all of that time, from the day her body was found in 1991 until this month, her identity was unknown to anyone but her family. All of them, including Juarez, who is her cousin, kept silent.
Ultimately, a tip this year from a family friend led to Juarez’s confession and arrest on Saturday. As of this Wednesday evening, however, Juarez changed his story.
“He’s a baldfaced liar,” said retired NYPD homicide detective Jerry Giorgio. “This happens all the time.”
Giorgio had been the lead detective on the Baby Hope case, and never let it go cold, even in retirement. He now casts serious doubt on Juarez’s new version of what led to the young child’s death, a version that conflicts with Juarez’s confession that he says was coerced by detectives who questioned him.
“Almost every case I’ve been to trial with,” said Giorgio, “there’s been an accusation of brutality.” He said that once evidence is presented in court, virtually every time a jury rules against the suspect. “Fortunately, I got convictions in 99 percent of all of my cases,” Giorgio told PIX11 News.
Juarez said in an interview from Rikers Island, where he’s incarcerated pending trial, that Anjelica died from a fall down the stairs in his sister’s home in Astoria, Queens, where the girl lived with his sister, Belvina Juarez Ramirez.
Juarez said in his conversation with a New York Times reporter that after the little girl died, his sister sister called him on his cellphone — 22 years ago, when very few people had mobile phones — and she asked him to help her dispose of Anjelica’s body.
He admits to helping to stuff the girl’s remains into a cooler, and hiding the cooler in the woods near the West Side Highway in Upper Manhattan with his sister, who has since died of a stroke, and therefore can’t give her own version of the story. However, Juarez denies sexually assaulting or killing the girl.
“This case is going to come down to what the medical examiner is going to say versus what the suspect has to say,” Joseph Giacalone, professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said in an interview with PIX11 News.
Giacalone, author of police investigator textbook The Criminal Investigative Function, pointed out that crime scene investigators and the medical examiner’s office gathered and analyzed abundant evidence from the scene where Anjelica Castillo’s body was recovered. The medical examiner also did a detailed autopsy. Both should yield extensive information about the girl’s death that may effectively counter Juarez’s account, when a jury weighs his case.
The New York Times did not seek permission from Juarez’s attorney before speaking with him, which has left law enforcement officers, like the former lead attorney on the case, frustrated and disappointed.
“I don’t think that’s right,” said retired detective Giorgio. “Anything in the Times in relation to that interview could impede the case.”