At graveside ceremony, Baby Hope gets real name back

With family members standing by, Lorena, center left, With family members standing by, Lorena, center left, sister of Anjelica Castillo, places flowers on her sister's grave at St. Raymond's Cemetery in the Bronx. (Nov. 15, 2013) Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

advertisement | advertise on newsday

A brief, poignant ceremony at St. Raymond's Cemetery in the Bronx for the unveiling of the headstone of little Anjelica Castillo -- Baby Hope -- drew scores of uniformed police officers, detectives and, in a surprise to many, her mother and sisters.

The Rev. Rudy Gonzalez, who presided 22 years ago when Anjelica was first laid to rest in July 1993, said a short prayer Friday and sprinkled holy water on the grave, as well as the black granite stone that only hours before was engraved to add her real name and birth date, April 24, 1987.

For decades known only as Baby Hope, 4-year-old Anjelica's true name and that of her suspected killer were uncovered this past summer after an anonymous caller rang up the NYPD Crime Stoppers line and provided key clues.

Conrado Juarez, 52, of the Bronx and a cousin of the child, was arrested last month after confessing to her murder in 1991, police said. His case is pending.

The unveiling of Anjelica's name, which was carved for free by Crown Monument, was a bittersweet moment for many at the grave.

"In general, this is a very sad moment but it is also a very happy, gracious moment," said NYPD Assistant Chief Joseph Resnick. "We now have the little girl identified who sat here or lay here for 22 years totally unidentified."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"I just want to express my feelings of happiness and great joy that we were able to reach this day, for Baby Hope," said retired Det. Jerry Giorgio, who doggedly pursued the case even after leaving the department.

By prearrangement after the ceremony, Anjelica's mother Margarita Castillo and a number of her other daughters, their children and relatives, walked down a cemetery road to the grave to pay their respects.

Consoled by Gonzalez, Margarita Castillo, carrying a small bunch of white roses, had tears running down her face as she lit a votive candle and walked to the headstone. Setting down the flowers and candle commemorating the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe, Castillo touched the headstone and then made the sign of the cross. Other family members also placed flowers and votive candles.

Surrounded by a horde of reporters, Castillo refused to talk. But her daughter Lorena, one of eight siblings of Anjelica, spoke briefly to Newsday.

"I am just glad her name is on the stone," she said.

@Newsday

Police said Anjelica was living with the family of her father in Queens when in July 1991 Juarez met her in the hallway of the apartment building.

According to police, Juarez has admitted sexually assaulting the child, smothering her and, with the help of his now deceased sister, disposing of the body in a picnic cooler in a wooded area off the Henry Hudson Parkway in upper Manhattan.

However, in jailhouse media interviews, Juarez has denied killing Anjelica but admitted helping dispose of her body.

You also may be interested in: