A man accused of killing a 4-year-old girl given the name "Baby Hope" during the more than two decades the case remained unsolved has died in custody before the case could go to trial.
Conrado Juarez, 57, died Sunday at Montefiore Nyack Hospital after reportedly suffering complications from pancreatic cancer. Juarez had been accused of killing Angelica Castillo in 1991 and stuffing her naked body in a cooler before abandoning it in a wooded area in upper Manhattan, according to the New York Times.
The crime would go unsolved for 22 years. Investigators gave the young girl the moniker "Baby Hope" until her real identity was discovered in 2013 after investigators received a tip that led them to Castillo's mother and Juarez, Fox News reports.
Castillo had been living in the care of her paternal cousin - Juarez's sister - at the time of her death. Juarez confessed to the crime, telling investigators he smothered the girl with a pillow while sexually molesting her; however, his lawyer would later argue that the confession had been coerced.
He initially told investigators he had only helped his sister dispose of the body after finding the girl dead in his sister's hallway, the Times reports.
However, two hours into his videotaped statement he said he had smothered the young girl while he was sexually assaulting her in a spare room at his sister's apartment.
Just four days after his arrest, he changed his story again, telling Times reporter Frances Robles that although he'd confessed to the crime, he didn't do it. During that interview, he claimed the girl had fallen down the stairs and died.
After waiting five years in jail, Juarez' trial on charges of second-degree murder was slated to begin in March. The former restaurant worker was being held in the Rockland County Jail at the time of his death.
Janine Kava, a spokesperson for the state Commission of Correction, said Juarez died at 6:24 a.m. on Sunday. The commission will investigate the death, she said, according to the New York Daily News.
[Photo: Associated Press]
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