The killing of the little girl for 22 years known only as "Baby Hope" may have been labeled a cold case, but it never stopped haunting New York City Police Detective Jerry Giorgio.
The girl's body was found inside a cooler in a wooded area near the Henry Hudson Parkway in Manhattan's Washington Heights neighborhood in 1991. Police said the girl, who was between 3 and 5 years old, had been malnourished and was sexually abused.
After getting the case in 1991, Giorgio worked on the Baby Hope murder until his retirement this past summer.
"I'm an eternal optimist. I always hoped, the name [we gave her] was very appropriate," said Giorgio.
The girl was given the name "Baby Hope" by the detectives at the 34th precinct, who also paid for her headstone. The bottom of her headstone reads "Because we care."
She was identified for the first time Saturday as Angelica Castillo and her cousin Conrado Juarez, 52, was arrested and charged with felony murder in connection with the case.
Initially Giorgio said the detectives tried to find information from items in the cooler or from phone-in tips, but those ultimately were dead ends.
"The beginning was very frustrating because we had no identity and we couldn't go anywhere [with that,]" Giorgio said.
For years the case stalled, but Giorgio said he never stopped believing they would eventually catch the person responsible for the girl's death.
"I thought there would be some clue and some hint [about what] happened," the detective said. "That's what happened, [if] this woman had never called we'd still be in the dark. It was a great feeling when we first identified her."
This summer, on the 22nd anniversary of the girl's death, detectives canvassed the area near where Anjelica was found in the Bronx asking for information about her identity and the circumstances leading to her death.
Police passed out fliers and announced a $12,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
Eventually a tipster led police to Anjelica's sister, who told detectives she thought her sister had been killed. From there the case moved quickly, police were able to match DNA from Anjelica to their mother.
The mother, who was not identified, revealed that Angelica had been in the care of relatives of Angela's father at the time of her death, including Juarez's sister.
Eventually police closed in on Juarez, her cousin. Juarez allegedly told police he noticed Anjelica while visiting the family apartment and killed her, according to police said.
For Giorgio, the end to this haunting case is a relief.
"I described it as being on cloud nine," Giorgio said. "I'm ecstatic when we got the tip. I can't tell you how happy I am. Now she can really rest in peace. "
The Associated Press contributed to this report.