One of the images in the Baby Hope case that led to the big break last month in the murder case was created more than 21 years ago by Canadian experts who used the actual skull of the dead child to create computer renderings of her face, according to NYPD officials.
The image -- depicting a three-quarter profile of the child now known as Anjelica Castillo -- was used this past summer on a poster circulated around Washington Heights.
The poster, combined with an earlier police sketch and a photograph of the picnic cooler she was stuffed in, ultimately sparked the anonymous call that led to the identification of Anjelica and the arrest of a cousin in her murder, according to investigators.
Anjelica's body was found in July 1991 in a wooded area by the Henry Hudson Parkway in upper Manhattan. She was stuffed in the cooler, with her legs tied above her head. In April 1992, her skull, with the flesh removed, was sent to the Metropolitan Toronto Police for computer analysis, according to NYPD officials.
The skull, which was missing some of the child's front teeth, was used to create a strip of computer images showing the progressive reconstruction of Anjelica's face, officials remembered. The resulting near-profile image showed a child with long dark hair, full cheeks and an overbite.
"I think that is what made this click," NYPD assistant chief Joseph Resnick said Friday. Resnick has been involved in the investigation for many years. The poster with the images led to an anonymous caller who tipped police to the identity of a woman who was a relative of Anjelica. The resulting investigation led to the arrest last month of Conrado Juarez, 52, who police said admitted killing Anjelica after sexually assaulting her. Juarez pleaded not guilty to a murder indictment last week.
Although Anjelica had much of her face intact when she was discovered, her skin and tissue had suffered decomposition in the summer heat and one person familiar with the case said her facial tissue partly came off during the autopsy. Two NYPD officers who were licensed morticians actually used morticians wax to rebuild the face, according to Michael Muenz, one of the officers involved.
It wasn't certain how forensic experts removed Anjelica's skull tissue. A spokesman for the Toronto police couldn't locate anyone with knowledge of the case. But former NYPD forensic artist Stephen J. Mancusi, who after retirement remains involved in forensic reconstruction and sketches, said chemicals are the preferred method of cleaning skulls.
"It is very common to work from the skull if facial tissue is not viable," said Mancusi.
Traditionally, skulls have been modeled with clay to reconstruct the face. But three-dimensional computer images are now commonplace, said Mancusi. He said that three-dimensional computer printing of skulls and faces is now being done.
Anjelica, who was 4 years old when she died, was buried in St. Raymond's Cemetery in the Bronx and for decades was known only as Baby Hope. But after the case was broken by the anonymous caller, her true identity became known. Earlier this month, Anjelica's full name and birth date, April 24, 1987, were engraved into the headstone.