New York City police say they have arrested a relative in the death of a child nicknamed Baby Hope whose naked, malnourished body was discovered inside a picnic cooler in 1991 and has remained unidentified until now.
During an interrogation, the four-year-old girl's cousin, Conrado Juarez, admitted sexually assaulting and smothering her, said police commissioner Raymond Kelly.
The child's name and the circumstances of her death had been a mystery for two decades, but police received a new tipoff this week and a DNA test had allowed them to finally identify the baby's mother. Police have revealed the girl's name as Anjelica Castillo.
Police said Juarez, 52, lived in the Bronx, but that the family had been living in Queens at the time of the killing. They said Juarez claimed that a relative helped him dispose of the child's body.
Anjelica's naked, malnourished corpse was discovered on 23 July 1991, beside the Henry Hudson Parkway. Setectives thought she might have been suffocated but had few other clues as to what happened.
The case became an obsession for some investigators. Hundreds of people attended a funeral for the unknown girl in 1993. Her body was exhumed for DNA testing in 2007,and then again in 2011.
In July, detectives tried another round of publicity on the 22nd anniversary of the discovery. They canvassed the neighborhood where her body was found, hung fliers, circulated sketches of the girl and a photograph of the cooler and announced a $12,000 (£7,500) reward for information leading to an arrest.
Former detective Jerry Giorgio, who oversaw the case from 1991 until his retirement this summer, said he remained confident the case could be solved. "You know that expression 'I'm on cloud nine'?" Giorgia said. "Well I'm on cloud nine."